Blessing and gratitude

When I pay attention I will see all that I truly have to be grateful for each and every day.

What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word blessing?

Is it the grace said before meals? “We always say the blessing before we eat.”

Is it an affirmation or encouragement? “The employee had the blessing of her boss to move ahead on the idea she had.”

Or perhaps the word blessing brings to mind something wonderful that has happened to you, something that brings you joy. “The birth of my first grandchild was such a blessing.”

Have you ever noticed that there are those kinds of blessings all around us every day, but we often don’t even see them? As a hospital chaplain I have had the opportunity to meet patients who have multiple health challenges and very difficult lives. What astounds and humbles me is how many of them I have heard say, “I am so blessed.”

I am secretly wondering, “How do you even keep getting up in the morning?” Yet they tell me the ways they are blessed. My problem is that I am often blind to the blessings all around me.

There is a well-known Christian hymn called “Count Your Blessings,” which encourages us, during difficult times, to count and name each blessing, and in doing so recognize God’s hand in them.

This hymn is a reminder to me that I need to pay attention. And when I pay attention I will see all that I truly have to be grateful for each and every day. As I write these words, the rain is falling outside, yet I am warm and dry and grateful for a roof over my head. I also need to pay attention to the smaller things in life and be grateful for them: the hot coffee I drank this morning, the dog nuzzling me as I began to wake up, my daughter telling me about prom the night before.

Gratitude for the big things and the little things is a spiritual practice that can transform our lives. Research has shown that having a regular practice of listing things we are grateful for, counting our blessings, can have a real impact on us physically, emotionally and spiritually. This is how The singer-songwriter Carrie Newcomer describes this practice in the poem “Three Gratitudes.” The ritual is to name at least three things — sometimes more —to be grateful for at the end of each day, just before sleep, and to savor that sweetness.

But let’s not wait until we go to bed tonight. Right now, take a piece of paper and write down three things you are grateful for, three blessings in your life that give you joy. I bet you are smiling now. Isn’t life a wonder?

The Rev. Kelley M. Woggon, M.Div., BCC, is Norton Healthcare director of pastoral care.


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