The infinity of things that might have happened, but didn’t — the child that might have been conceived but for a nighttime summons by the boss; the man who might have cured cancer but left school at sixteen and became the car-wash guy with the drying rag — are beyond our knowing or caring.
But some things are close enough and common enough that, when they don’t occur, we just might notice their absence, as Sherlock Holmes realized that the dog did not bark in the night, and thus solved the Silver Blaze mystery.
Perhaps, especially when so much seems to be going so wrong, we should keep an eye out for the small annoyances that could have happened, but didn’t. I have, and it’s lifted my spirits. For example, there’s …
… the guy in the blue Volkswagen behind me, at the intersection, who did not honk when I took 3 seconds to respond to the green light
… the man ahead of me in the King Soopers check-out line who did not send his son back to pick up the forgotten pack of hot-dogs, did not have 17 coupons, and did not pay with a wad of crumpled singles and a handful of pennies
… the woman I was canvassing for her vote who did not answer the bell, so the front door did not open, and her enraged mastiff was not able to hurl itself through the flimsy screen door and maim or kill me
… the little girl, sitting behind me at the ballet, who did not kick the back of my seat and did not persistently ask her mother why Sleeping Beauty could wake up from a sixteen-year nap and dance like she was a first-grader on the playground at recess
… the man standing beside me on a hot, crowded bus, who did not reek of tobacco, and was not wearing a shirt that had not been washed for three weeks
… the dishwasher repair person who was not late and did not track mud into the house
… the dry cleaner who did not lose my shirt and did not substitute a new stain for the one she removed
… the phone call that was not from the IRS, about money I owe, and not even about my overdue student-loan payment, but actually from my mother, letting me know it was not going to rain in Toledo, so I would not need my raincoat (in Houston)
… the doctor who was not running two hours behind schedule, with a stethoscope that was not freezing cold
… the visit from the police which was not about the red-light I ran or the car I sideswiped in the parking lot, but simply solicitation for a donation to the Policemen’s Benevolent Association, which I (respectfully) did not give him
… the morning paper that was not left so far from the garage door, in the snow, that I would not have been able to get it because all I had on was my socks and I would have had to go all the way upstairs to put on my shoes, which I would not have been pleased to have to do.
For all these admittedly small, but not completely inconsequential when you add them all together, blessings, I am not unthankful.