"Count your blessings." Did your mom ever tell you that growing up? Mine did. I typically brushed it off, too, since it really wasn't what I wanted to hear in the middle of a personal pity party over whatever situation I was so distraught over. But I'm coming to realize that my attitude has a powerful effect on how my circumstances affect me. When I focus too intently upon the challenges and obstacles before me, my world shrinks. It's as if there are no other people than those within my tiny circle, no problems beyond my own, and all joys are enveloped by troubles. I become self-absorbed to the point of blindness.
Not only that, but I become entirely insensitive to the needs of others. I can't listen to someone who so desperately just needs to be heard and understood without feeling the need to share my own burdens, inevitably sounding like I'm trying to compete with them for the trophy of Who Has the Biggest Problems. I no longer function as a listening ear, but become only a complaining, miserable person with no ability to hear others' troubles but all the expectations that others will listen to mine.
And, of course, in this state of mind, I am wholly incapable of seeing the many things I have been blessed with. That's where the seemingly trite advice of "counting my blessings" hits me right between the eyes. It serves as a reminder, a perspective-shifter, and the motivation I need to once again shift my gaze from the obstacles at my feet to the world around me and the heavens above me.
When I begin to think about all the ways in which I have been so greatly blessed, I realize that while there are some things I could lament the lack of, in the grand scheme of things, I have been richly blessed.
I have a loving, supportive family.
I have wonderful friends.
I have a roof over my head.
I have a steady job.
I have real community.
I have a reliable car.
I have more than sufficient clothing.
I have food.
I have clean water.
I have my health.
I have healthcare.
I have insurance to protect my possessions, should anything happen to them.
I have an abundance of ways to communicate with people both far and near.
I have a wealth of information at my fingertips, allowing me to solve problems and learn new things more easily than others of any previous generation.
I live in a country that allows me to freely express my opinions and beliefs.
I have a college education.
I have been given the ability to walk, talk, hear, touch, see, and experience the world. My body is able to do these simple things that I often take for granted, although sickness or injury could inhibit them at any moment.
I have my faith, and nothing can change that.
I know I have even more blessings than these, but even taking just a moment to dwell upon this brief list has elevated my spirits as I adopt a spirit of gratitude for what I do have instead of an attitude of want resulting from a position of discontent and greed. I have so much to be grateful for, and I don't want to take those things for granted just because they get overshadowed by the things I think I need at any given moment.
May we all daily strive to count our blessings, to remember the many things for which we can be grateful for, instead of complaining about and focusing on the things that aren't going our way. And may we find greater joy, peace, and willingness to spend more time focusing on others than ourselves as a result. Maybe, just maybe, we will discover that an attitude of gratitude makes the world a better place.