The best cup of coffee is not the four-dollar, imported-from-some-exotic-place, freshly roasted, even more freshly ground cup you get at that boutique coffee shop. The best cup of coffee is the one you drink from a cracked ceramic cup in front of a campfire on a chilly morning, the smell of bacon mingling with the smoke from that same wood fire and the vapors of the coffee, maybe even a few drops of bitter oils floating on top of it because the propane camp stove is harder to control and sometimes the coffee comes just a little too close to a simmer. When you are cold, nothing tastes better than something warm.
Even tomato soup from that red and white can tastes pretty good. It doesn’t matter if the seasoning is not well-balanced (too much sugar and salt and little else). It doesn’t matter if there is no complex depth of flavor, just candied tomatoes and tin can. Those niggling little details make no difference to you at that moment. It’s warm and you appreciate that. If you have never been truly cold, so cold that your insides quiver and you can hardly make your hands work and keep your mind functioning, you have never tasted a truly good cup of coffee or a good bowl of soup, no matter how much either cost you, or how many gourmets raved about it.
So why will that help me get through life? Just think about this: How do people who have a terrible disease, or who have experienced one calamity after the other, or who are unfairly oppressed for their beliefs, or who come within inches of death, still smile and laugh, still enjoy life and keep their faith? Because when you have a REAL problem, suddenly you understand what is important. You are able to find pleasure in the little things. You can feel joy in watching a sunset. You can find happiness in seeing children play. You can experience contentment in even just one moment of normalcy. You can enjoy peace in the company of those who love you, even if they are not perfect. Suddenly their imperfections become insignificant.
I cannot think of any instance where griping is anything but a sign of ingratitude. When we whine about the inconsequential things, when we complain about the traffic, the weather, the petty grievances against others and the annoyances of life, then maybe we need a catastrophe to wake us up to what really matters. Sadly, that is often what it takes to get our priorities in order. Some things are just more important than others but, just as it takes a nearly hypothermic person to enjoy what he might ordinarily consider a mediocre cup of coffee, it often takes a disaster to force us to recognize how blessed we truly are.
We could be even happier if we did not always have to learn that the hard way.
Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil -- this is the gift of God. For he will not much remember [brood about] the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart Eccl 5:18-20.