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Jewish World Review
May 10, 2006
/ 12 Iyar, 5766
(Trying to) count your blessings
I went to a memorial service recently, and, as is most often the case, it was a very sad affair. A man had died too soon leaving a young family behind. I found myself thinking what I always think at such occasions: we should count our blessings and appreciate all the good in life, because we never know when fate will throw us a terrible curve. I vowed, as I always do, to stop fretting about the small, unimportant issues and concentrate, instead, on the good health, happiness and prosperity my family and I have been blessed with. I had failed to follow my own such advice in the past, but, this time, I planned to see I through.
G-d, who has often heard me utter such thoughts, apparently decided to test my new-found resolve immediately. On the way home from the service, my car stopped running. There I was, stuck on a busy street in Northern Virginia, a policeman behind me and a tow truck on its way, reminding myself that this was a very small matter in the great scheme of things, and, besides, I had just pledged not to let such minor inconveniences annoy me.
As I sat there, my blessings count was stopped occasionally as I groused a bit about the amount of time it was taking for the tow truck to arrive. My prayerful thanks to the Almighty were interrupted from time to time as I remembered the number of occasions on which the auto dealer had assured me the problem had been resolved. And the complications presented by the incident, in terms of scheduling and transportation, did get just a wee bit in my way as I tried to make a mental list of all the wonderful aspects of my life for which I was grateful.
In short, I blew it. I failed again. Human nature seems to make it impossible (at least for me) not to complain about things, no matter how petty they may be, and no matter how their importance may pale in the face of the problems other people confront in their lives. There is a parable about a guy who complained about having no shoes until he met the man who had no feet. I, on the other hand, have lots of shoes many more than I need and I have absolutely no trouble complaining about any of them.
Maybe it's a good thing. After all, no matter how great your troubles, you can always find someone who is worse off than you. Are you supposed to grin and bear it just because someone else is suffering more? What kind of a world would it be if everyone were content with his life just because it was better than some other life. A nation of Pollyannas would, I think, be pretty tough to take. I suspect dissatisfaction drives us more than satisfaction. It could be that Thomas Edison would have been happy to sit in the dark if he believed he was better off than someone who couldn't see at all.
So I've decided to count my blessings when possible, but to put aside the notion that they can ever inoculate me against getting annoyed by life's petty problems. After all, each day is different, and what may seem unimportant to some may be important to others. Life is filled with good news and bad, and that news can turn on a dime. It's like the fellow who was forced to jump from a plane. Fortunately, he was wearing a parachute. Unfortunately, the parachute didn't open. Fortunately, there was a large haystack beneath him. Unfortunately, there was a pitchfork in the haystack. Fortunately, he missed the pitchfork. Unfortunately, he missed the haystack.
Despite the occasional pieces of good news on the way down, the guy had a right to complain.
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JWR contributor Pat Sajak is the recipient of three Emmys, a Peoplesí Choice Award and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He's currently the host of Wheel of Fortune.
© 2006, Pat Sajak