Above all, when I consider the myriad things I might include in my gratitude list, I am grateful to exist. The probability of my coming into being — like the probability of any other human being born — was, and is, infinitesimally small.
In an average sexual encounter between a man and woman, approximately 100 million sperm swim in search of an egg that may or may not be present, so the chances of any particular sperm finding an egg are smaller than 100 million-to-1.
My parents tried for a year before my mother conceived their first child — my sister — and their 10-year-long attempt to have a son or another after me came to naught. So I feel boundlessly fortunate that one night, in 1943, one of my father’s sperm met an egg of my mother’s. and that my mother did not miscarry, and that that fertilized egg became me.
I am grateful for the success of the miraculous process in which that fertilized egg divided repeatedly, and then formed all the organic matter and specialized parts that became me.
I am grateful that I was not born with any obvious genetic abnormalities or birth defects, or with cystic fibrosis, spina bifida, cerebral palsy, or any other congenital disorder, and did not succumb to polio, measles, influenza, tuberculosis, or any other malady prevalent in the mid-20th century.
I am grateful that while I was growing up, my brain worked well, so that I rarely had to struggle in school. I am grateful that my brain functioned satisfactorily during my decades as an employee, and that my intellect is still largely intact.
I am grateful that I entered the world, in January 1944, in the United States, and not in Germany, Russia or Poland, and that I grew up in the United States and not the Soviet Union.
I am grateful that I still live in the United States, and not Hungary, Russia, North Korea, Venezuela, Ethiopia, Yemen, Afghanistan, Haiti or any other country where conditions range from bad to terrible.
I am grateful that whenever I choose, I can tune out news of the horrible events causing suffering among so many people. I am grateful that I have the means to generously support charitable organizations that try to help struggling or ill human beings, try to preserve our environment and all the world’s living creatures, and try to end social, economic and political injustices.
I am grateful that while I harbor regrets regarding my interactions with my mother, I know that she regarded me as a fine daughter and friend, and appreciated the many ways in which I helped her and made her life easier. I am grateful that — thanks to her thrift, and mine — I could pay for excellent round-the-clock help for her in her home during the last five years of her life.
I am grateful that, thanks to my completely thoughtless decision to marry — and despite the misery of 10 years that followed — I had the chance to become a mother. I am grateful that I was able to experience the many joys of raising my son, who was always extraordinarily easygoing and amiable.
I am grateful that he is an exceptionally fine human being who has made impressive contributions to his community, and that he has made a very positive difference in the lives of the many people he has met, and those he had befriended.
I am grateful that he lives in accordance with the basic principles of Judaism, treating people with respect and compassion, and acting in ways that are merciful and just. I am grateful that he seems to be mostly happy and satisfied in his personal life.
I am grateful that I am financially secure and live in a fine apartment in a fine building in a wonderful neighborhood where nearly everything I might need is close at hand. And that through the internet, I can get anything that isn’t easily obtainable here. I am grateful for public transportation, libraries and parks.
I am grateful for my good neighbors and my invaluable friends, who have always supported me and bolstered my spirits and enriched my life. For them, I am more grateful than I can express in words.
I am grateful to be fully vaccinated — two shots and a booster — against COVID-19, and grateful that all people most dear to me — and many millions of others — have been similarly protected. I am grateful to all the people who work in laboratories and elsewhere to try to prevent and cure all illnesses.
Despite my frequent insomnia, I am grateful for nightfall, where I can lie in bed with my beloved cat cuddled next to me, and feel hope — while fervently wishing, too — that tomorrow will be a better day for our country and the world.