As a child, I remember eagerly sitting down to write my Christmas list. Page after page of all the gifts I hoped to receive with an occasional reason why I deserved them, just in case Santa was uncertain if I’d been good that year. I remember the television commercials that advertised all the things I wanted, and felt I could not live without. Despite my pink princess Barbie, glittery dress-up clothes, and a closet full of board games, I still wanted more. As a child, I lived in a world of want. Looking back, however, I am astounded at my limited knowledge. How could I not see what all I had? It’s amazing how easily we can take our blessings for granted. I believe counting them and cherishing them daily is imperative for happiness.
It wasn’t until a leadership conference that I realized how essential this axiom was. When participating in the community service project, I assumed we would complete the usual picking up parks or rebuilding homes. However, when we arrived at a half-painted, steel-roofed daycare, I realized I was in for much more than my expectations. In tattered clothes, the children, ages two to five, stared with curious eyes, as I wandered across the colorless room past the puzzles with missing pieces. When I sat on the cold concrete in the circle with the children, I was instantly surrounded by their gentle hands, inching closer to be by my side, in my lap, and on my back. As they began talking, I was bedazzled by their stories. One boy told me he lived with his grandmother because his father was arrested for “bad stuff.” Another small girl told me about her walk to the daycare, five blocks from home, alone. Their stories were incredible. These children had broken families, hardly any toys, seemingly nothing. And yet, these children taught me a lesson: be thankful for what you have. The same girl laughed with excitement as she told me about chasing a yellow butterfly on her walk to the daycare that morning. Another boy proudly told me about his shoes that his big brother once wore. These children were genuinely happy with the things they did have in their lives.
When I arrived back home, I was amazed at how much I had taken for granted. I didn’t deserve all this. I have family, friends, and a personal relationship with God. I am now careful to appreciate things as simple as chasing a butterfly or the shoes on my feet.
So now, every Christmas as I hang decorations, I sit myself down to begin my list. My list no longer contains all the things I want, but all the things I already have. Page after page I write of my blessings, from my Bible to my country, to the bed I sleep on. An old hymn from Church plays in my mind: “Count your blessings. Name them one by one. You’ll be surprised by what the Lord has done.”
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