48 Unconventional Things I’m Grateful for … that I bet are not on your list!


“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” ~G.K. Chesterton

Every Thanksgiving, with less regularity than it deserves, my family takes turns expressing what we’re grateful for.

I suppose it’s not as regular as it could be because we always draw on those things that are most important in our lives.

And so everyone takes a turn expressing their gratitude for family, friends, faith, country, freedom, health, happiness and the like. The themes come back year after year.

I’m thankful for those things too. Deeply thankful, in fact.

But what about those things we don’t include on such lists? What about the mundane? The common? The usual? The overlooked? The unconventional?

Our happiness depends on our ability to feel and express gratitude. The more grateful we are, in fact, the deeper our happiness will run.

So I thought I would put together my B-list of things I’m grateful for.

My Unconventional Gratitude List

1. Toilet paper: Just imagine what it was like without it! What would it be like without it now? It’s a scary thought.

2. Toothpaste: By the time the Founding Fathers of the U.S. were in their 70s and 80s (including Jefferson, Washington, Adams and Franklin), they were near or totally toothless. Enough said.

3. Color: Question: What would the world be like in black and white? Answer: Booooring! – visually, anyway. Color has been shown to change moods. It’s powerful and pleasing. It differentiates the seasons. It beautifies life.

4. People like Nick:

5. Braces: You should have seen my crooked chops before getting them! Believe me when I tell you I’m grateful for the metal-mouth experience.

6. Deodorant and perfume: Yeah, you know what I mean! You’ve smelled the unpleasantness of those without such niceties and have probably been smelled by others when you went without! Life is simply better when we see our friends coming long before smelling them!

7. Soap: I have stood and sat by people for whom soap effectively did not exist. Deodorant only goes so far at masking other people’s stench, after all. I’m deeply grateful for it!

“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.”  ~Thornton Wilder

8. Pizza: It’s just plain good! We need things in life that have no other redeeming value other than simply tasting good.

9. Saliva: It’s nice when eating crackers. It comes in handy when trying to expel a bad taste from the mouth. It helps prevent cavities. It’s convenient when trying to thread a needle or remove dried spaghetti sauce from your chin, sealing envelopes and keeping that darn strand of hair in place. And it’s quite nice when smooching my honey too!

10. Opposable thumbs: Think about all the tasks opposable thumbs make possible: holding most things, hitch hiking, thumbs up signs, thumbs down signs, thumb wars, playing marbles, coin tosses before games, fastening paper clips, texting, and so many more things I’m frankly too tired to think about.

11. Indoor toilets: We’ve all been shocked into full attention when sitting on a cold toilet seat in the middle of the night. Now imagine if that toilet seat were outside in a smelly outhouse!

12. The bumps dividing lanes on the freeway: You know you’ve been saved from sideswiping a car next to you by rattling over those things before as well!

13. Aglets: (The tips of shoelaces) Just makes life convenient when your 5-year-old son decides it would be funny to pull the laces out of ALL your shoes.

14. Flashdrives/thumbdrives/portable hard drives: My blog and much of my documentable life is stored in one of those things! It’s on my keychain. It’s always with me.

“If a fellow isn’t thankful for what he’s got, he isn’t likely to be thankful for what he’s going to get.”  ~Frank A. Clark

15. Paper: What would we have to do without if paper never existed? Books, to-do lists, sticky notes, mail, cardboard boxes, construction paper, posters, paper cups, newspapers, magazines, invitations, birthday cards, get-well-soon cards, any cards, receipts, paper snowflakes, toilet paper, paper towels …

16. Dishwashers (clothes and dishes!): We’re spoiled, I know. But hand washing everything? Everything? No thanks!

17. Fingernails: Whether scratching an itch (your own or someone else’s), removing a splinter, or scratching off the ridiculously-overly-sticky price tag from the bottom of new dishes you just bought, finger nails are just darn useful.

18. Spoons: I love cereal. My favorite is raisin bran with a banana cut up and thrown in. I use soy milk (I know, but it actually does taste good). I’ve tried to eat it with a fork before (don’t ask). It doesn’t work very well (trust me). I love spoons.

19. Pillows: Don’t they just make the whole sleeping experience that much sweeter?

20. Glass: Think about how life would be different without glass: No windows in your bedroom, no windshield on your car, no reading glasses or magnifying glass, no mirrors, no fiberglass insulation, wine glasses and other glassware. Other uses you may not be familiar with: recycled powdered glass in brick, cement and water filtration. What a wonderful product!

“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.”  ~Epictetus

21. Gears: I’m confident you’ve never seen this one on anyone’s list before. But just think about what gears make possible: Bikes and motorcycles, cars, watches, clocks, blenders, egg beaters, electric screw drivers, odometers, windshield wipers, automatic transmissions, helicopters, can openers, guitar and violin tuning keys, rack and pinion steering, robotics, wind mills and so much more.

22. Flowers: Imagine a park, a neighborhood, an amusement park, a Rose Parade, a backyard, a front yard, Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Anniversaries without flowers. I’m grateful for them.

23. Ink: Books, newspaper, magazines, copy machines, printers. All useless without ink.

24. Salt: There are over 14,000 uses for salt. Not only does it enhance taste and make the beach experience unique, it’s used in boiling water, poaching eggs, cleaning greasy pans and ovens, removing pin feathers from chicken, brightening colors, preventing mold, cleaning brass, getting rid of sweat and blood stains, soothing bee stings and poison ivy and sore throats, preventing weeds from growing in patio cracks and frost from forming on windows.

25. Scissors: Ever try to get a pair of scissors out of its packaging without a pair of scissors (an Ellen DeGeneres joke)? Whether opening impossible-to-open packaging or cutting hair or string or paper, making paper snowflakes with your kids or using them in the kitchen for removing exoskeletons from shrimp, this is a very handy tool that I’m thankful exists.

26.  Paint: It beautifies, identifies, expresses, varies, and extends the life of whatever is painted.  I’m glad we have it.

27. Libraries: A store of knowledge. A resource for growth and self-education, for imagination and creativity and information.  I can’t count the number of audio-books on history, economics, productivity, sales, self-improvement, happiness, marriage, government, memory, leadership and the like I’ve listened to – all picked up from our local library. I mean your tax dollars are already paying for it. You might as well use it!

“Who does not thank for little will not thank for much.”  ~Estonian Proverb

28: Smiles: Ever have a baby look into your eyes and smile? It’s priceless. Smiles change moods – the smiler’s mood and the smilee’s.

29. Laughter: It cures heavy hearts and tired minds and sick bodies. It is contagious and happiness-inducing. I recommend it. Lots of it.

30. Anonymous acts of kindness: It reminds me there are people who are good for the sake of being good, for no external reward for their goodness. I’m thankful for that.

31. Bach: It’s heavenly music. The world needs more heavenly music.

32. Night: Not likely on very many gratitude lists either. But think about life without it ever getting dark. I love the light. I love my surroundings very well-lit. But I also like the soothing nature of night. It relaxes and unwinds. It quietly closes one day and prepares us for the next.

33. Hair: Whether it grows on the head, face, legs, arms, back or pits, hair is a good thing. It warms us, helps identify us, allows us to express our creativity or fashion or style. It also keeps us humble when it starts falling out!

34. Opposition: While I’m not much a fan of it in the moment, in hindsight, opposition has done great things for the human family. It creates movements that changes lives and builds muscle and mind and character.

35. Water: The ocean, swimming pools, tears, saliva, somewhere around 60% of your body is water, noodles and rice are made with it, so count those things out without the magic of H20 around.

“We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.”  ~Cynthia Ozick

36. Sight: Movies, smiles, children’s faces exploding with laughter, flowers, rainbows, the immenseness of the solar system, eyes, color, sunrises and sunsets, great art, the quality of a new haircut, a knowing grin from a friend, the sleek sexiness of a hot car, the beauty of form and figure. Some can be appreciated to a certain degree by the sightless, to be sure. But the nuances, the moments where touch is not available and description inadequate, those moments are lost without sight. I’m grateful for it.

37. Hugs: A life without hugs would be a lonely life to me. I’m a hugger. But even if I wasn’t, there are certain people (moms, dads, children, spouse) you just need to hug and need hugs from. Hugless homes are barren homes. So go hug and be thankful!

38. Sand: Silicon, glass, concrete, the beach, sand-blasters, sand paper, sandbags, sandcastles, filtration, brick, mortar, bottom of fish tanks. So much that we enjoy is enjoyed because of sand. So thank the beach next time you pass it.

39. Gratitude: Bet you haven’t thought of being thankful for the human capacity for thankfulness! But what a truly beautiful trait it is. Think about the ugliness of ingratitude as a way to underscore the beauty of its opposite. I am indeed grateful for the art and gift of gratitude.

40. Trash collectors: What would a good Thanksgiving Holiday be like with the stench of rotting, maggot infested garbage wafting through the afternoon air, seeping in through cracked windows, mixing with the scent of turkey and stuffing and gravy? Like I said, I’m thankful for garbage collectors.

41. Mosquito-fighting insecticide: The nuisance, the itch, the whine of their incessant buzz, oh, and the whole malaria thing too!

42. Zippers: Remember having to button up your Levi jeans? I LOVE zippers!

43. Coupons: While I don’t personally clip and use them, my wife does and literally saves $600 on monthly living expenses, saving on average 75-80% on household needs. Wow!

44. A rainy day:  Some rain, a good book, a warm cushioned couch and a cup of hot chocolate.

45. Batteries: Cars, boats, planes, cell phones, flashlights, MP3 players, IPads, garage door clickers, and anything else that makes life portable and needs electricity. Life is simply more convenient with batteries. I’m grateful for them.

46. Air conditioning: I still remember the summer 5 years ago when my wife was pregnant in a house without air conditioning. There were some record highs that summer. My wife was miserable. So we got air conditioning. It was beautiful. I am grateful for that beauty and the effect it had on the mood of my pregnant, morning-sick wife. Again, enough said.

47. The gift of voice: Whispering love in the ear of your loved ones, yelling for your team at a game, singing, laughing, debating important issues, thanking someone for their kindness, speaking passionately about gratitude or breaking barriers or overcoming fears and living happy lives of character.

48. You: I’m grateful for people like you who visit my blog and read what I have to say, who take these things seriously, who want to learn and grow and seek inspiration, motivation and insight into that process, who share what I say with others and share what they think about what I say with me. I am grateful for you.

Closing Thoughts

There is a difference between being grateful for something and being a grateful person. The more we look around us and truly feel grateful for all the amazing blessings that make up our daily lives, the happier life will be.

Still, all lists are incomplete. I would love to hear from you about your own gratitude lists. Let me know if anything on mine is something you’re consciously grateful for. And add to it! What have I missed? What can be added to grow our collective sense of gratitude?


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 Flickr Credit: rnoel1