Count Your Blessings
In this day and age where possessions are so important, despite the fact that they have them, Americans are more discontent than ever.
In my work as a therapist, I hear more and more, "I am so stressed out."
When we research the source of the stress we find that it comes from an inability to count our blessings. A feeling of entitlement. An old phrase, "keeping up with the Jones" is more apparent than ever.
A good deal of the problem comes from the fact that we are told over and over by these possessions, we need new possessions, that we need a new TV, Car, computer and more and more.
In my life time I come from no car, no TV, No telephone, no computer, no air conditioning, coal heat and no refrigerator. And you know what? We were not poor. We were middle class. And my Mother was a stay at home Mom and we were happy. Please do not misunderstand me. All these life style improvements are good and potentially necessary. But at what price? Are we content with what we have or are we constantly seeking something else. An elusive possession that will never completely satisfy us.
Not so long ago I had a man come to me who was originally from Pakistan. He came here ten years ago, became a citizen, prospered and has a family. He needed help because he had decided to go back to Pakistan and complete Medical School there. I was helping him to restore his confidence, develop good study habits etc. This involved traveling back and forth to Pakistan and periodically coming home. On one of his visits to me he said, "You Americans make me sick. When I come home to the United States I want to kiss the ground. In the best apartment the water supply is sporadic at best. The temperature is 101 degrees. No air conditioning, no electricity. We get electric service 3 hours a day "sometimes." And, we never know when that will be. out we are constantly looking over our shoulder waiting for a bomb to go off. We can not travel without papers. I come home and all I hear is discontent.
To make it worse, it causes us to spoil our children. We pile material things on them with no expectation that they contribute. Kids in college get credit cards, cars, spring break and a belief that the world owes them a living. It is no wonder that 25 million of them in their 30's are still living at home. A man told me recently that he had a hernia operation. It had snowed and though his driveway was flooded, his walk still had to be shoveled. He called his neighbor who has a 15 year old son and asked her if the boy could do it. He would gladly pay him. She said, "Just a minute." Came back and informed him, "I'm sorry he's playing with his Nintendo game." My Mother would have kicked me out and warned me not to take any money.
The American Eagle gives an example of how to teach our young. She nurtures and protects them and then, when they are old enough, she pushes them out of the nest. She then follows them down as they furiously flap their wings. If need be she catches them just before they hit the ground, takes them up and pushes them out again until they fly. The thrill of soaring has to begin with the fear of falling. She is aware when it is time to "Push". It is her parental mission. The Eagle knows from an innate wisdom that until her children discovered their wings there was no purpose in their lives.
I can relate to a personal experience. When I was 17, I enlisted in the Navy. I had to report to Whitehall Street in New York City. They put us on a bus, took us to Grand Central Station and then to the base at Bainbridge Maryland. We were marched into a gymnasium where there were card board boxes lined up on the floor. We were told to take all our clothes off, put them in the box, address the label to our home, seal the box and march away. I knew how the little eagle felt. But I grow up in a hurry. It is OK to love our children, but they must be prepared for the real world so that they can appreciate what they have and count their blessings. My Mother used to say, "Nothing good comes easy". As usual she was right.
Is it corny to remind ourselves that we can walk and talk and see and hear and do all the things that so many people can not? The internet is full of stories about people who have struggled to overcome tremendous handicaps to just be what we take for granted. How many persons who are blind would give all their worldly possessions just to be able to see ?. Japanese who recently have lost everything appreciate just being alive. The lessons are all around us. But do we recognize them? You answer that.
Ready or not, some day it will all come to an end. There will be no more sunrises, no minutes, hours or days. All the things you have collected, whether treasured or forgotten will pass to someone else. Your wealth, your fame and temporal power will shrivel to irrelevance. It will not matter what you owned. Your grudges, resentments, frustrations and jealousies will eventually disappear. So too, your hopes, ambitions, plans and to do lists will expire. The wins and losses that once seemed so important will fade away. It will not matter whether you were brilliant or beautiful.
So what will matter? How will the value of your days be measured?
What will matter is not what you bought but what you built, not what you got but what you gave. What will matter is not your success but your significance. What will matter is not what you have learned but what you taught.
What will matter is every act of integrity, compassion, courage or sacrifice that enriched, empowered or encouraged others to emulate your example. What will matter is not your competency but your character.
What will matter is not how many people you knew, but how many will feel a lasting loss when you are gone. What will matter is not your memories but the memories that live in those who loved you. What will matter is how long you are remembered by what and for what.
So it is never too late to, "Count your Blessings" and to realize that there is still time to make the changes in your life that will enable those you love and have touched to be able to "Count their Blessings".