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Word of the Day: Comfort

Updated on June 23, 2015

Comfort has come to my attention today. It called to me like a child calling to their mother from the swing in the playground. It spoke softly but clearly and said to me – “think about it”.

So, here I am, thinking about the word “comfort” and sharing the thoughts. These are not arbitrary events in my life. In truth, they are my teachers. They occur randomly and without warning. I have grown to appreciate them and to look forward to the lessons they bring.

Comfort Calls

I had no plan for today. After a very hectic week in which I felt stretched a bit too thin and forced to deal with a variety of emotions, I had declared that today I would set no alarm. I would sleep until my body was rested and my spirit renewed. The morning sun woke me gently, and I lingered in the bed for a bit knowing I had no schedule to keep. What a treat this was: a selfish indulgence of guilty pleasure.

The smell of freshly brewed coffee reached my senses and after a few stretches and yawns, headed for the kitchen. As I poured that first cup of my favorite steamy hazelnut flavored liquid, the word for this day spoke to me – comfort. Ah yes, comfort. This lazy, self indulgent morning is pure comfort.

Normally, I would head for the dictionary to explore the meaning of the word but not today. First, I wanted to explore what the word meant to me. It was my lesson after all. I sat down with that cup of coffee and began to list the thoughts that the word comfort had generated in my mind. The list looked something like this:

  • A warm bed on a chilly morning.
  • Sunshine streaming through clean windows.
  • Faded, baggy blue jeans and a sweatshirt.
  • A pet who loves you in spite of yourself.
  • Being old enough to not care if you fit “in” anymore.
  • Looking in the mirror and seeing the graying hair and faint wrinkles as trophies.
  • Having a trusted friend call just to say hello.
  • Rain falling gently on the roof.
  • Bare feet on grass or mud.
  • Looking to the mountains and feeling at home.
  • Paying the bills and having a wee bit left over.
  • Calling home and hearing that family is safe and happy.
  • Understanding that I am a tiny part of a big universe.
  • Sitting by the fire and listening to the song of the burning logs.
  • Feeling the presence of God in every day.
  • Listening to music that speaks to the heart.
  • Finding the first daffodil of Spring.
  • Feeling satisfied with what I have and what I have accomplished.
  • Asking myself what I would buy if I had the money and finding the answer is – nothing.

My list could go on and on because as I have aged, my needs have been simplified and my wants all but eliminated. I am satisfied with what I have. I am healthy and even though my vision has diminished from macular degeneration, I still see beauty in all things. There is beauty in nature and in the generous and kind spirit of the people I know. With age I have learned to appreciate the value of a few good friends and I don’t care about winning popularity contests. The years of defining my career or climbing corporate ladders are behind me and now I am content with just getting a paycheck that pays the bills. I am content and, I have found comfort in my life. And there it is – the word for this day – comfort.

The Official Definition of Comfort

Now, I can turn to the dictionary and see what Merriam Webster says about this word of the day. Without copying the text, let me just say that Merriam Webster defines the trasitive verb "comfort" as giving strength and comfort or, easing the grief of trouble of.

When used as a noun, Merriam Webster defines "comfort" as strengthening aid or assistance, consolation in time of trouble or worry, a feeling of relief or encouragement, and contented well-being.

After reading the definition from Merriam Webster, I am reminded that like all good things in life, we cannot truly appreciate them until they are shared. The riches in this life are not ours to keep. They mean nothing until we have offered comfort to those around us.

My thoughts after the official definition

With the reading of the definition, I feel enlightened. Comfort is not about me. It is not about laying in bed too long or the guilty pleasure of a second cup of coffee. Comfort comes when we are satisfied with what we are contributing to others. Comfort comes from giving.

We all need someone that we can be our best and worst self with without the fear of judgment or criticism. Comfort can be found in the simple touch of a hand. Comfort can be found in a moment; the moment when a friend hears bad news and needs a steadying hand on their shoulder. A neighbor who has experienced great loss may find comfort in our presence when the nights are long and they are afraid to cry alone. The comfort of a hug may open the door to release the emotions locked away by a victim of childhood abuse or a woman who has been battered by an abusive spouse. Sitting by the bedside of an elder while they recall memories of the past may bring comfort as they stare into the unknown of their final days.

The Blessing and Comfort of a Friend

Thoughts continue...

Perhaps it is the comfort of more material things that we must share before we can fully appreciate the comfort in our own life. Unless we have been homeless and hungry we cannot fully appreciate the comfort of a free meal at a soup kitchen served by loving volunteers. Unless we have been alone and lonely we cannot appreciate the comfort in an offer of a ride to church for the widowed gentleman who no longer drives. Until we have been the kid of a single parent we cannot know the comfort of getting to play sports because another parent offered to pay the fees.

Until we have found the comfort of having a trusted friend with whom we can be our true selves, we cannot be that friend for another. This is the circle of life; that what we enjoy we must share. The true riches of life are not possessions. They are lessons and once learned, become more valuable only when they are shared.

The Lesson in the Word

I awoke today with the word “comfort” on my mind. As I took a look at the things that bring me comfort each day, I was reminded that around the world there are others who will never know the simple pleasure of waking in a warm bed or enjoying the aroma and taste of a hot cup of freshly brewed coffee. All around the world there are those that will never experience a hot meal or have the time to appreciate a sunrise. They do not have the luxury of listening to the birds sing their morning songs or the freedom to bask in the warm rays of the sun. Around the world there are millions who do not know the fate of their loved ones and, those that are dying alone in the dark. Today, somewhere in the world, a disaster will occur and access to clean water or shelter will become a thing of the past for an entire community. Today, in millions of places around the world, a doctor will tell someone that they have cancer and that there is no cure. In cities across the world, someone will die today, the innocent victim of a drunk driver. Others will be beaten by a thief who needs money for drugs. For those, there is no comfort in this day.

Should I feel guilty for the comfort of my own life? The answer is part of my lesson. Having spent the morning opening my heart and mind to the true meaning of the word - comfort, I have come to this understanding. If I have not provided comfort to others, then yes, I should feel guilty for the comfort in my life. The choice is mine. I can do something today to bring comfort to someone else and eliminate the guilt or I can remain in this place of comfort that greeted me this morning and do nothing. I don’t think I’ll risk it. I think I'll find something to do today.

© 2013 Linda Crist, All rights reserved.


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