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Day 27: Bless

Community Manager

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Families are a key feature during this time of year, whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, or Yule.  Each of these celebrations mark the coming together of families – both in religious and relational ways.  Your family is who you make it, those who celebrate together, those who commiserate together, those who build you up and make you a better person.

In more “Gregorian” terms, it’s also the end of the calendar year.  It’s a time when companies sum up their fiscal gains (or losses) for the year, a time when we all make New Year’s resolutions (which we frequently break), and when we celebrate (or commiserate) about another year completed.  It’s a time for reflection and for marking the closure of one season and the opening of a new one.

For me, this time of year is about family and marking the passage of time.

In my life, family means my wife, my father and mother, and the plethora of aunts, uncles, and cousins who inhabit my family tree.  However, as I got older, my family has grown to include close friends, my in-laws and their respective families, several coworkers, and the inevitable inclusion of new children.  But, my family has also shrunken over the years.

Several years ago, we lost my grandparents in what feels like rapid succession.  They were the cornerstone on which I built the idea of “family.”  This was very painful, but you console yourself with the knowledge that they left you with such a family that you can survive the pain.  Some part of you always knew that you’d outlive them and whether you were ready or not, that part of you was preparing to let go.

However, it was years before – in November of 2001 - when we suddenly lost my younger brother, Kenny.  Ken passed away two weeks before Thanksgiving.  This remains the single most painful thing in my life and it still influences me to this day.  When we finally got to Thanksgiving, we gathered, ate, and celebrated, because that’s what we were expected to do, but it was hollow.  All that I kept recalling was a line from A Christmas Carol: “I see an empty chair where Tiny Tim once sat.”

It was also this time of year where I remember first hearing (and hating) the phrase, “count your blessings.”  Needless to say, I wasn’t listening to anyone who said these things.  I would hold it together during the times with others, and privately rage when alone.  This went on and on for about a month.

Then the holidays came along and being the first year after we lost my brother, it was important to continue the farce that was celebrating the holidays.  We did what we always did as a family – watched our Christmas movies.  For us, this is A Christmas Story (1983) and It’s a Wonderful Life (1946).  The former is my father’s favorite and we watch for the humor of the holidays.  The latter is my mom’s favorite and we watch to restore our faith in humanity.  As a family, we’ve seen both of these movies dozens of times and we know many (if not most) of the lines.

We ran through A Christmas Story and the laughs were half-hearted.  Not because the Bumpus hounds tearing apart the turkey wasn’t funny, or because “Fa-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra” wasn’t politically incorrect comedy gold, but because there was a voice and a laugh missing.  And that silence echoed throughout the house and within me.

Then it was time for the next movie.  The title alone set my teeth on edge that year.  “It’s a Wonderful Life” – Really?  Are you sure?  How can it be with this “empty chair” that’s going to be here for the rest of our life?  (The movie is from 1946, but I’ll do my nerd diligence: Spoiler Alert.)

The movie opens with the fanfare for all movies of those years, celebrated in all its black & white glory.  George’s life is falling apart.  His house is in shambles, his kids are needy, his uncle may have just destroyed the family business his father built, and everyone is relying on him for something.  Everything that was going wrong in the world had one common denominator – George.  Needless to say, I felt like George Bailey that year – up to and including the part where I didn’t want to be born.  If I wasn’t born, then I’d never have to experience this loss, this pain, this emptiness.

Then George gets his intervention.  God sends down a (probationary) angel to help him out in the form of Clarence.  And George gets his wish.  He can see what the world would be like without him.

The ripples are astounding.  If he wasn’t there, the family business would have failed years before, his uncle would end up destitute, his mother would run a flop house, the town would be under the thumb of crotchety old Mr. Potter, and his family would never have existed.

But the one thing that hit me the most was that his brother, Harry, would have died in a river since George wasn’t there to save him.  I distinctly remember getting hit with so many emotions during this announcement that I was utterly silent.  His brother was gone, all the things that his brother did with his life (specifically in the war) never happened.  I reflected on my own situation, everything that my brother could have done in his life would never happen.

Finally, George gets clarity, he wants to live.  Regardless of what’s falling down around him, he wants to live.  The world was a better place with him, than without.  Suddenly, I was no longer George Bailey, Ken was George Bailey.  The loss of him was terrible and would have lasting ramifications, but the time that we did have was precious.  The closing of the movie always brings me to tears, but that year it was the worst that it’s ever been.  The entire town, every single person that tangentially had a relationship with George, came to help.  Every person who had been blessed by his touch was returning the blessing.

This is also when “count your blessings” stopped becoming a pain point for me and became a lifeline.  I looked around and saw my family.  Although Ken was no longer with us, the love and laughter that he brought to our lives would always be.  I looked into the eyes of my family and I saw him looking back.

Regardless of what’s happened in your life, at this time of year, take the time and count your blessings.  Even when the deck seems stacked against you, even when the rug has been pulled out from under you, even when everything seems spinning out of control, take a moment and truly look around.  There are great things in your life.  We are all blessed, even if we don’t always feel it.

45 Comments
Level 10

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Level 15

Bless,

a new dawn breaks

a rain drop falls

a window opens

a bark from the back yard

a widow smiles

a child runs

a flower blooms

a blessing in full

to see a smile

to walk the line

to taste to drink

to feel devine

to wander off

to return safe home

to be blessed with you love

to honor your tomb

Bless the sick

Bless to poor

Bless the neighbors

Bless to do more

Bless to be blessed

Bless all things

for happiness comes true

give your blessings to someone new

Happy New Year to you all. 

Level 11

Every day I watch the news and listen to the radio and shake my head. There seems to be more than enough hatred in the world to go around these days. Next time you get upset at someone near you, please stop, be kind, think before you act.  Remember -Blessed are the peacemakers; I think a little love will go a log way in the world if we can all try a little more.

Level 12

Here's a little secret, if you want to be happy, try to bless others in your life, you spouse, your kids, your friends, and co-workers.  If you are trying to bless others and bring joy and happiness in their life, then you will be happier and blessed to do so.

Level 21

Ok, so when I first came to this page and saw that picture of Ralphie from A Christmas Story I about died laughing, such a good picture; how can you possibly look at that and not smile or even laugh.  You blessed me with laughter today by posting that; thanks!

Level 8

I am thankful for my mixed martial arts training that scored me that last sweet big screen TV at the after xmas sale.

Level 9

Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.

Level 12

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Community Manager
Community Manager

Thanks Byron.  This time of year is a mixed bag for me, but there are still a few shining lights.  Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

Community Manager
Community Manager

Thanks Michael - I'd like to extend this to the police forces everywhere.  They normally get a bad rap and you only hear about them in the news when things so sideways, but mostly they are there keeping our streets safe and protecting us without our knowledge.

Level 11

Image result for bless

I think of my Seven Blessings

Jeremiah, Tiffany, Danyelle, Rachel, Elizabeth, Malachi and Amelia Joy.

Level 11

It is very hard to be able to 'count your blessings' when ti seems everything is going wrong. For some reason, thoughts like that bring up something former Super Bowl MVP Doug Williams related. He was feeling very down and out of control, when he happened on a homeless person on a bench. No matter how low you think you are, there is always someone worse off. Conversely, you always have some blessings to count.

Of course, there's that other 'bless' from my brother's football-playing days. Hitting an opponent so hard that they fell back with arms splayed looking somewhat like a crucifix meant you had just 'blessed' them.

"Count Your Blessings" What does that mean really? The blessing of life? The blessing of a healthy body and a healthy mind? The blessing of nurturing parents to raise you properly?

Because after that it's all a toss-up to this game of life. The best and the worst of us will be dealt crappy hands and will do, what we believe to be, the best that we can to make the most of it. I am reminded of this Chinese proverb when it comes to "Count Your Blessing." For that saying has a truly deeper meaning:

The Most Famous Chinese Horse Proverb

One of the most famous horse proverbs is 塞翁失馬 (Sāi Wēng Shī Mǎ) or Sāi Wēng lost his horse. The meaning of the proverb is only apparent when one is familiar with the accompanying story of Sāi Wēng, which begins with an old man who lived on the frontier:

Sāi Wēng lived on the border and he raised horses for a living. One day, he lost one of his prized horses. After hearing of the misfortune, his neighbor felt sorry for him and came to comfort him. But Sāi Wēng simply asked, “How could we know it is not a good thing for me?”

After a while, the lost horse returned and with another beautiful horse. The neighbor came over again and congratulated  Sāi Wēng on his good fortune. But Sāi Wēng simply asked, “How could we know it is not a bad thing for me?”

One day, his son went out for a ride with the new horse. He was violently thrown from the horse and broke his leg. The neighbors once again expressed their condolences to Sāi Wēng, but Sāi Wēng simply said, “How could we know it is not a good thing for me?” One year later, the Emperor’s army arrived at the village to recruit all able-bodied men to fight in the war. Because of his injury, Sāi Wēng’s son could not go off to war, and was spared from certain death.

Ohh.. and an alternate ending to It's a Wonderful Life. One of my favorites... 🙂

Watch It's a Wonderful Life: The Lost Ending From Saturday Night Live - NBC.com

Community Manager
Community Manager

I've never heard this proverb before, but it seems to resonate.

It also puts me in mind of:

Level 11

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Level 11

It's a wonderful life is my favorite Christmas movie. We watched it every Christmas Eve growing up!

When I think of Bless I go back to the phrase "God Bless America." In 2001 after 9/11, my dad bought a "God Bless America" sticker and put it on the window of our mini-van (a Pontiac Transport Montana). I'll always remember that vividly in my mind in connection with the 9/11 attacks.

As the years passed though, I started to think that we had it all wrong with that phrase.  It should read, "America bless God."  I'm not sure that we can just expect God to bless us without us doing any of the work first.  The Bible says to "seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you."  That is just something I try to keep in mind when thinking about the word "bless."

Level 14

Be kind to all others

As you walk down the street,

Try to take the time

To bless those you meet.

Level 17

When something happens, there are two responses in my community.

One is "Baruch Dayan HaEmet" - blessed is the True Judge

The other is "Baruch Hashem" - blessed is the name (of God)

Both bless. Both bless God. But the context of usage couldn't be more different.

When a bad event occurs, the response is Baruch Dayan HaEmet. The subtext is that this thing, as painful and frustrating as it may be, must serve some higher purpose. Must be part of the plan. Must be precisely, measure for measure, what was needed in this situation.

To believe otherwise is to give in to a view of a random and chaotic universe in which any action we take is at best ultimately fruitless and at worst pointless.

When something good happens, the response is Baruch Hashem. The subtext is that it was not from me, not from random events, not from the hand of another person, but from a Higher Power, One who has a plan for all things. I was just the serendipitous recipient of the event.

To believe otherwise is to give in to a view of egotism and self-centeredness in which our own will is paramount.

To count one's blessings is, as other have commented before me, to make the choice to focus on those blessings rather than one's problems. More than just being a good habit, it can have profound and measurable effects.

The "Nun Study" was started in 1968. It followed the lives of 700 nuns from their early 20's to old age and discovered that the ones who expressed gratitude easily were more likely to be healthier and have more fulfilling lives.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks (former Chief Rabbi of the UK) commented on this recently:

"Since the publication of the Nun Study and the flurry of further research it inspired, we now know of the multiple effects of developing an attitude of gratitude. It improves physical health and immunity against disease. Grateful people are more likely to take regular exercise and go for regular medical check-ups. Thankfulness reduces toxic emotions such as resentment, frustration and regret and makes depression less likely. It helps people avoid over-reacting to negative experiences by seeking revenge. It even tends to make people sleep better. It enhances self-respect, making it less likely that you will envy others for their achievements or success. Grateful people tend to have better relationships. Saying “thank you” enhances friendships and elicits better performance from employees. It is also a major factor in strengthening resilience. One study of Vietnam War Veterans found that those with higher levels of gratitude suffered lower incidence of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Remembering the many things we have to be thankful for helps us survive painful experiences, from losing a job to bereavement."

So go ahead. Acknowledge the events in your life, the things which happen to you and around you. But remember that in choosing to see those events as a blessing or not, you may literally be choosing life, and the length of your days.

Bless:  pronounce words in a religious rite, to confer or invoke divine favor upon; ask God to look favorably on.

It feels like a command verb:  "Do this!"  "Bless me!"

Level 11

Some of the things we term as "disappointments" in life are blessings in disguise.

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Level 12

Hi,

Keep faith on yourself first and then on God . Sometimes, God tests us with all the difficulties and finally you would get good. Hence, Be Strong, Be Positive & Think Positive. Everything you require will be on your way. But, you need to put your efforts 100%

All the Best .

Level 12

Blessings will always be there from your family & friends, if you do the below things

Be Happy & make happy

Be Strong

Be Positive & think Positive

Help Ever Hurt Never

Believe in yourself first

Believe in Working Hard

Do good and you will get it in return

Think that everything (Good or Bad) happening for your Good only

Level 12

Bless others before yourself

MVP
MVP

To bless is to give to another. We all have the ability and means to bless others. I think our whole perspective would change if we looked at life from a perspective of blessing others rather than "what can I get."

Level 10

This post really hit me hard in the feels. Thank you for sharing this story (very sorry for your loss).

Bless.... 

I feel blessed everyday that I'm in a world where there are still so many caring people out there, who are willing to help others.

It reminds me that no matter what we all go through, we're not alone.

Level 11

'Bless' is not a word in my vocabulary.

Level 20

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Level 15

Thanks to KMSigma​ for the anecdote.

It hits home especially this year since this is the first holiday that my grandmother was not in attendance. The family all got together as normal, but there was a noticeable gap and a loss in the warmth she would provide to our lives.

However, we each were blessed in our own ways with her and that's something that can give special meaning to an individual's life and ultimately honor their memory.

Level 13

with all of the problems, hate and evil in the world, blessings are sometimes hard to find...

I have 4 that keep me grounded...my wife and 3 children. Yes, they sometimes create more problems than they solve...but when they wrap their arms around me and say those 4 magical words, it melts my heart..."Can I have some?"

🙂

Bless is a difficult word for me. While growing up as a Roman Catholic in NJ the word has very strong cultural significance. Yet it is so tied to deities and holy things it is hard to use the word without invoking some sense of religion. My wife and I do feel blessed and are thankful everyday for where we find ourselves. After decades of service to others, there is a great appreciation for the good fortune we have. So many we have encountered are less fortunate than us. Furthermore, both of us love cultural history and it gives us a larger appreciation for how blessed we are to live now and in a relatively peaceful time.

* A sample of some thoughts on blessings and thankfulness ------------

“This food is the gift of the whole universe,

Each morsel is a sacrifice of life, May I be worthy to receive it.

May the energy in this food give me the strength,

To transform my unwholesome qualities into wholesome ones.

I am grateful for this food, May I realize the Path of Awakening,

For the sake of all beings.”  (A Buddhist blessing for food)

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For the meal we are about to eat,

For those who made it possible,

And for those with whom we are about to share it,

We are thankful.

In this home all are one

As are the earth, the stars and sun

With head and heart and hands be blessed

That each of us may do our best

As we prepare to eat,

Let us remember the plants and animals,

The labor of those who harvested the food

And the effort of the cook who prepared it for us.

Thank you!

http://www.dishwasherrequired.com/secular-meal-blessings/

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As we come together at this special time, let us pause a moment to appreciate the opportunity for good company and to thank all those past and present whose efforts have made this event possible. We reap the fruits of our society, our Country, and our civilization, and take joy in the bounties of Nature on this happy occasion. Let us also wish that, some day, all people on Earth may enjoy the same good fortune that we share. - Bruce Folwer

Level 12

I am blessed to have a good family. I didn't grow up getting everything I wanted, but I had everything I needed. My family has always been there for me. Life has never gone the way I have hopped or planed for it to go, but my family has always had my back and was there to support me. I consider myself blessed to have that.

Level 10

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

This confused me for many years. I thought, how could some one with poor spirit get into heaven. It made no sense.

But then! I realized it meant - blessed in spirit are the poor. That makes way more sense, right?

My theory on what the entire statement means: We are all born with nothing and we return to the earth with nothing. Things of this world consume us. The poor, those with little or nothing as far as possessions or money are truly blessed. The poor who are truly happy with what they have are blessed. This is something I may struggle with my whole life as we are taught everyday that we need to succeed and success means money, power, wealth....things. If you don't have a nice car, a nice house, or nice clothes then you have failed.

Guilt surrounds me everyday of what I have and what others don't...even as I try to gain more and more. A better home, a better car, and better things.

To feel blessed means you appreciate what you have and what you have been given and not wanting more. Because if you want more, than you don't truly feel blessed.

My struggle continues as I try to practice what I preach.

Level 8

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Level 9

I've always thought of blessings as positives in my life that were given to me regardless of whether I deserved them or worked to earn them. My family, my nationality and the time I find myself living in...all blessings.

Level 9

Blessings to my family and all that are close to me. I try to live the life I choose and support my wife at all stages. It's the blessing I receive each day that keep me going and make me the person I am today.

Level 17

You know Potter gets to keep that $8k, right? #blessed

Level 9

Bless the lord oh my soul.

MVP
MVP

upright - and the correct side of the grass

Level 9

I will bless the Lord all the days of my life.

Level 10

I will Bless those who bless you forever. I will count my blessings for He is good to me always.

Level 10

When the LORD blesses, no man or confederacy of men can curse.

Level 12

Its a time to bless one another. Count your blessings every time you can.

Its good to reflect on God's blessings.

About the Author
Kevin's first computer was the family TI-99/4A. He's learned computing the best way possible: by fixing his own broken machines. He was a SolarWinds customer for nearly 10 years before joining the company. He's worked the range of IT jobs: from the 3-person consultancy to the international law firm. Along the way, he's become a SolarWinds advocate and evangelist of monitoring glory. His passions include shooting archery, blacksmithing, playing D&D, and helping IT professionals leave at a reasonable time each and every day.