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Count your blessings

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- On Christmas Day, Luke, my 7-year-old grandson, was at my home opening his gifts. He possesses a passion for all things automotive as well as his enjoyment of Legos, so my gift was "Zoobs" - a clever combination of both interests.

Excited, he tore off the paper and stared down at the box. Then he jumped up, held it over his head, and cried, "I love this! This is so awesome! Thank you, Nana!" Impressed, his mother asked, "Well, what is it, Luke?"  He immediately responded, "I have no idea!"

Since then, I have thought a lot about Luke's enthusiastic and gracious acceptance of a completely unrecognizable gift.  Of course it makes me smile, but I am aware of a much deeper lesson.

What he demonstrated was a sincere appreciation for what he had been given and trust that even though he had no idea what it was, the gift was of value and worth. He had no clue that he personified what is meant by the count your blessings training provided by Air Force assistant resiliency trainers.

It's easy to glaze over and stop listening when the phrase "count your blessings" comes up. It seems rote, possibly even meaningless. But I challenge you to dig deeper, examine your life and list your blessings and gifts.

Start with the big: "I'm alive, I live in a safe neighborhood and I have a job." Then think about small: "My dog loves me unconditionally, I love sushi and I can usually afford to buy it whenever I want."  

There are countless blessings in our lives. Take regular quiet moments to appreciate each one. You will notice that some are constant and others temporary. If your blessing is a person, let him or her know how much they are appreciated.

What about bad experiences or seemingly negative people in your life? Could they be blessings, too?

Absolutely!

Like Luke, who simply trusted that the gift must be awesome, you can trust in a similar way. Believe in yourself and the people who care about you. Let go of the past, live fully today and have faith in the future. Know that there are always positive lessons and growth that can be achieved from every hard or painful experience, if you only allow it. It may sound trite, but it's absolutely true. 

And never assume that those people in your life who aren't playing a central role in your life right now aren't worth your time or attention. Especially in the military, people have a way of threading in and out of our lives. You can never predict who you might need some day or who might need you.   

Last - the kind, loving spirit. When counting blessings becomes a regular focus of our attention, we simply can't help but become more expansive of spirit and more generous with our kindness. One naturally seems to follow the other without planning or intent. The result is a happier person who feels authentically blessed in life, surrounded by others who enjoy a blessing of being genuinely appreciated by this individual.

It sounds like a win/win outcome to me.