Op/Ed

Ways of seeing: Here are some blessings to count

Some of us are having trouble counting our blessings lately, so I’ve put together a handy guide to get you started. So as not to deter or offend anyone, I won’t specify to what or to whom — or to Whom — you address your thanks.
Dear [insert name here], Thank You for today. Today I [choose from the following]: won the Nobel prize; graduated; met someone I like; dressed myself; went to the bathroom; woke up feeling better; woke up. Thank you!
Or perhaps, Today I: drove alone to Burlington; remembered where I parked the car; didn’t lose one glove; was able to help someone; told three people I appreciate them.
Here is a slightly different approach. Dear [insert name here], thank you for the blessing of: air; food filling grocery store shelves again; Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Dungeons & Dragons/Lawrence Welk; my second cousin’s help with my computer; hair dye; Zoom. Thank you!
If you need more inspiration, how about praying to the fictional Anoia, Goddess of Things That Stick in Drawers (from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld)? Or one of these real deities: Cardea, the Roman Goddess Of Door Hinges; Tlazolteotl, The Aztec Goddess Of Eating Dirt (and anything decomposing); Kalfu, the Haitian God Of Crossroads; or the Roman Cloacina, goddess of the sewer system. (From the website: Listverse.com.)
Researching these, I learned that quite a few countries have deities of excrement. So be careful of your profanities, or you might accidentally summon one of them.
To continue: Thank You, [insert name here], for enabling me to: grow; learn (eventually); laugh; get better at surfing the waves of this challenging year; not drown when I take a header.
Perhaps it might work better for you to count someone else’s blessings: Thank You that my daughter got the phone call she’s been yearning for; thank you that my spouse’s cooking is improving; thank you that the new [insert name of game here] I bought for [insert name here] is occupying hours of [insert possessive pronoun here] time!
Other people’s blessings lead to our own blessings, become our own blessings.
If you need help: Dear [insert name here], please help me today. I would like to: establish peace among all nations; abolish the electoral college; create an English pronoun that has no gender; or, well, at least clear out my email “In” box.
Please help me find perspective so I can take the long view of events and so have equanimity. At least more often. At least occasionally. At least once.
Please help me find the calm and fearless place I know lives in my soul. Please make yourself known to me so I can trust the future. Please help me find my bootstraps so I can lift myself up.
Back to general blessing counting: Thank You for the twenty-six and a half minutes of sunshine we had last week. Thank You for “Flight 2021” which makes me giggle every time I read it on the internet. Thank you for the thoughtful people who cover their faces and step off the sidewalk or path when we pass each other. Thank you that I live in Vermont.
Thank You that joy exists even when I can’t feel it. Thank You that there is always someone I can find who is cheerful. Thank You that people love to help each other. Thank You for all the humor on YouTube.
I would like to add some words of my mother, who in her late 90’s became the Queen of Gratitude. One day, she had to take a new medicine, which was red. She had her caregivers serve it to her in a wineglass, as if it were the Jewish Sabbath wine. Every morning and every evening before drinking her “wine,” she thanked God for everything she could think of. She always thanked God for her caregivers, including whichever one was sitting there with her, which is one of the reasons they love her.
Has anyone thanked God for you, in your presence? Every day? It’s an extraordinary experience.
Day after day, my mother thanked God with a long list. At the end, she said the Jewish “Omein,” and the caregiver would say “Amen” and make the sign of the cross.
At 101, my mother was all but helpless, being deaf, nearly blind, with only one working arm, and in a lot of pain. Yet she said these words one time when I was listening: “Dear God, please keep me able to do the things I do, which isn’t much, but it’s very much appreciated.” Even while making a request, she was thankful.
One night she said, “Thank you, God, for a day…” She paused to think about what she was thankful for. Then she said, with a happy smile, “Thank you for a day!”
If you still need some assistance, perhaps this prayer from a Native American tradition will inspire you: Thank You for unknown blessings already on their way.
Barbara “Shulamith” Clearbridge offers interfaith spiritual direction in person and by videocall. She lives in Middlebury. She is the author of “Finding God/Prayers & Spiritual Practices from Many Traditions.” Her website is FeelingMuchBetter.org.

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