Despite our best efforts to strengthen our immune systems and avoid contagion, we all find ourselves sick at least once a semester. And while sickness is always uncomfortable and rarely convenient, these moments of weakness provide us with a unique perspective on things that we would otherwise overlook.
First, of course, is the sensation of bodily health. We never quite appreciate the miracle of being able to breathe until we can't for some reason. There's nothing like a head cold and a stopped-up nose to make us look back fondly on the days when we could take a breath uninhibited by congestion.
If we have a sore throat, we long for the day when we will finally be able to swallow again without feeling like we are being stabbed in the tonsils. A bad case of the stomach flu causes us to abandon our cravings for elaborate meals and instead long for the simplest crackers and water. We hardly notice our bodies' incredible capabilities of taking in air, water, and food until we become sick and are forced to do without them.
But our physical health is not the only thing we take for granted when we are healthy. We think of our responsibilities, like attending class and completing assignments, as drudgeries until we are no longer able to fulfill them. When we are too sick to attend class, we may enjoy the freedom at first, but soon find ourselves wishing for a change of scenery instead of staring at our bedroom walls.
If a fever or a headache keep us from working on assignments, we begin to miss the days when our brains functioned well enough to actually complete readings and homework. Sickness helps us appreciate our very ability to participate in school activities that we normally complain about.
And finally, times of sickness can help us realize how truly supportive our friends and family are. Maybe your folks drive you crazy, but the fact that they're willing to drive hours to see you and help you if you really need them speaks volumes about how much they care for you. And of course you already love your friends, but you grow to appreciate them even more when they risk their own health to drive you to the doctor or bring you soup or Gatorade. Sometimes it just takes a nasty virus to humble us enough to accept the generous love and care of people that want to help us.
Even though sickness remains a source of physical discomfort and a huge logistical obstacle in our daily schedules, perhaps we would do well to spend our recovery focusing on the new perspective that we gain through illness.
Your body knows when it needs to stop and take a break. Maybe sickness is a time to reevaluate how we are living our lives and look for ways to improve, whether that means taking better care of our physical health, shifting our priorities, or just being thankful for little things like breathing.