News and Tribune

June 5, 2014

MAY: Count your blessings

By TOM MAY
Local columnist

— Composer George Gershwin called him “the greatest songwriter that has ever lived.” Jerome Kern offered the opinion that he has no place in American music — he is American music.

His 60-year songwriting career produced more than 1,500 songs, the scores for 19 Broadway shows and 18 Hollywood films. He is best known for “White Christmas,” “There’s No Business Like Show Business” and “God Bless America.”

Today, we aren’t counting 50 songs by Irving Berlin but 50 days following the time of Easter and Passover. The purpose of our counting is to be sure that we notice the important things along the way.

The first two weeks we looked at important people, those who influence us and those who walk alongside us. We also looked at the road that we travel, and we saw things in the journey that come in pairs. Last week, we counted things the curves along the journey. For those keeping track, this is day 43 of our counting.

The movie “White Christmas” was meant to be a vehicle reuniting the talents of Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire and to showcase the popular song by the same title that made its debut in the earlier movie “Holiday Inn.” Production problems and scheduling issues shipwrecked that plan, but it did secure the songwriting talents of Irving Berlin once again.

One of the gems of the movie was a song that encouraged us to count our blessings instead of sheep — our counting project for the upcoming week. What comes to your mind when you think of the blessings of your life? Health? Wealth? Fame? Relationships?

Charles Dickens offered “Reflect on your present blessings — of which every man has many — not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”

Mother Teresa wrote, “Some people come in our life as blessings. Some come in our life as lessons.” Eric Hoffer said “the hardest arithmetic to master is that which enables us to count our blessings.”

So just what are our blessings?

Authors John Trent and Gary Smalley, in an interesting small book titled, “The Blessing,” examine the importance of the blessing in the Old Testament. Trent says that every human needs the gift of the blessing — the unconditional love and acceptance that comes from a healthy relationship with parents and siblings.

The blessing was a concrete way of affirming one’s position and value inside the family. In a world where we often feel we don’t matter, offering a blessing to someone may alter the course of their life.

Trent’s book offers practical suggestions on how to give a blessing and inspiration to insure that your parents, spouse and children all feel the security of family love. Five components of the Old Testament blessing give us guidance for making blessings count today.

The first aspect of the blessing is a meaningful touch. We speed through life at such a hectic pace, it is difficult to slow down enough to touch anything. Studies published in Scientific American magazine indicate that children who have not had sufficient physical and emotional touch are at higher risk for serious social problems as they grow up.

The next part speaks to communication. We are encouraged to verbalize our positive feelings for the family members. While it may be easier to skip over those words because they are too mushy or don’t come out easily, hearing them spoken affirms self-worth in a way most things do not. Also important for the blessing is the attachment of high value. We can affirm someone’s value by the things we say, by the actions we perform, and by the atmosphere we develop.

Two more qualities round out the blessing. Help the family member picture a future with significant purpose and special meaning. Recent trends in psychological studies place a powerful emphasis upon clarifying goals and visualizing them being reached. Help your family member see a future. Finally, make an active commitment to the person’s life. Invest time and reap a return that can change a life.

When asked how he is doing, radio talk show host and financial guru Dave Ramsey always quips, “Better than I deserve.” The bounty of your blessings may be so many that you would indeed fall asleep while counting them.

But this week, instead of counting blessings, be one.

— Tom May is the Minister of Discipleship at Eastside Christian Church in Jeffersonville. He is an adjunct instructor in the Communications Department at Indiana University Southeast. Reach him at tgmay001@gmail.com