After six years of living in North Carolina, some argument can be made that I am a Jewish Southerner. I’m sitting on my porch in a beloved rocking chair, the Southern furniture. Hours ago, a power outage happened, and darkness enveloped everything. A flashlight in my hands is all I have. My son is angry because the power outage has stopped him in mid-sentence on his laptop. The evening sky is dark now, with wisps of cumulus clouds still visible. I tell my boy that I am actually grateful for the power outage.

I do not dispute the inconvenience of having no electricity.I do not dispute the inconvenience of having no electricity A dinner with friends has been canceled. The chance to share a culinary event would have allowed both of us to be a part of a community, and breaking bread together might have obviated the solitary trajectory of daily existence. As a therapist friend of mine says, we cannot change an event, but we can change how we respond to that event.

We sit on the porch steps—the night birds singing, the sounds of the cicadas punctuating the air—and I say aloud: “This power outage is actually a good thing. It gives us time to consider everything we do have to be grateful for.”

Earlier that morning, I was reading passages of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks’ writing. At this moment, I have time to ponder his sentiment that every time you use the word “self,” try using the word “other” instead. With my son, I discuss his notion that the Jewish imperative is to be a blessing to others. My son responds that as Jews the biggest responsibility we have is to fix the world. My gratitude begins here: I am grateful for the wise words of Rabbi Sacks and my son’s understanding of their import.

Under a canopy of stars, I am grateful for so many things—the chance to sit in darkness and be at peace with my favorite person in the world. Several people are dancing in the street, and I am grateful for their exuberance, which keeps at bay any catastrophizing that I might indulge in. As we sit here marveling at how an unfortunate event through the power of cognition can be changed into a transcendent one, a car suddenly rolls up in front of our house and a close friend jumps out with something in her hand. “I made you a cake, so at least you have something yummy to eat with the power being gone.” I laugh because I am now grateful that we have good cake and the kindness of a friend.

I am grateful for so many other things as well. The dogwood trees on our property are still alive with color, and my old Toyota is still running. A total stranger performed a mitzvah of mowing my formerly ungovernable lawn.

For a moment, I stumble emotionally, remembering that a day before, my son was laid off from his job, and our financial moorings are consequently more precarious. Admittedly, there is so much to be overwhelmed by.

The rain has started pounding upon the roof, and some droplets are falling on the living-room floor, victims of a structural crack in the ceiling. It would be easy to bemoan our situation, but an idea suddenly appears: I tell my son that at least we have a roof over our heads, and it is only a very little bit of rain, so scant that it can be easily captured in a metal pot.

I am excited to begin a new dayIn the morning, as is my custom, I wake up and with some solemnity say “Modeh Ani.” The sun is shining brightly, and I am excited to begin a new day. The power outage is a thing of the past. I decide to make something special for dinner and run to the market to purchase the ingredients for my intended dish. I am grateful that I have the money to buy the food and an old cast-iron skillet to bring the fried chicken into respectable culinary life. I buy enough chicken so that I can share it with friends, intent on paying things forward.

The power outage of last night allowed our family to recalibrate the significance of things and to see that the barometer of gratitude is the best way to measure the sanctity of one’s life. It allowed us a measured space for silence. As I walk into my home, I say a bit wryly, out loud, thank you, G‑d, that the electricity is on. The newscaster on TV is animatedly describing the weather for the week; whatever it will be, I’m grateful that we are here, quite simply, to experience it in whatever glory it chooses to come. I’m grateful, too, that there is still some of that scrumptious chocolate cake in the fridge.