For What Has Been, Thanks!
Dag Hammarskjold, the second secretary general of the United Nations, kept a journal later published as a book, Markings. One of my favorite quotes from it is: “For what has been, thanks!” It is an expression of gratitude at its best. When I think of my own life, I, too, have appreciations for what has been, especially connected to two of my physical abilities: walking and hearing.
Walking. I was born with dislocated hips. In prior generations, I would have become a cripple. However, in Atlanta, where my family lived, there was a physician, among a handful in the country, treating this disorder. Under Dr. Hiram Kite’s care, I underwent three operations on my hips, was put in a body cast, and confined to Scottish Rite Hospital for months during my first two years of life. Dr. Kite’s methods worked. I was not only able to walk but to play sports, such as tennis, and successfully complete the rigors of basic training in the army.
Hearing. I have what speech pathologists call a central processing disorder. My ears and brain do not fully coordinate. Growing up I did not recognize slight differences between sounds in words. This condition resulted in my being a terrible speller then and even now. I initially had to treat the condition myself since it was not diagnosed. My strategy was rote memorization. My parents encouraged and supported it. For the most part, it worked, and I learned a lot in the process. It led to my becoming an academic.
In reflection, I am grateful for these frailties. They made me realize life is not uniform or fair. They also stirred within me empathy for the less fortunate, gratitude for kindness, and an appreciation for knowledge, skill, and hard work.
–Samuel Templeman Gladding
Winston-Salem, North Carolina