“Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”
Sometimes we have seasons of change, other times are more “things as usual.” Just as life starts to settle, there often seems to be a wave that brings up an “opportunity for growth” as I like to call it, i.e. a challenge.
The past few months have brought an interesting new wave of challenge into my life: terrorists- literally on my doorstep. I have found it to be a teachable moment: I’m learning a lot about how to decide when and where I put my attention. It has been a strange mix-up of my home being misidentified as the home of someone who has upset a host of terrorist groups. They are trying to intimidate him by stalking and posting (online) suggestions of harming my family’s home (which they believe belongs to this disrupter).
So what does one do when your home and family are threatened by terrorists? Well, there are a lot of ways to go, but human nature is fight or flight. My initial impulse is to sit in fear and self-pity. What does that accomplish though? I started to reflect on all the people who don’t just live in fear of intimidation but who live with frequent violence in their own homes, neighborhoods and towns.
I thought about people who are mistreated simply for the color of their skin. Listening to recent stories of Jews being the targeted has made my heart ache for them with a newly heightened sense of empathy. Then there are the millions of refugees and migrants who brave life-threatening journeys to escape extreme abuse and poverty.
My current conclusion: overall, I have a really great life and a lot to feel grateful for. Does the posed threat of my home burning down and losing my children sink in? Painfully so. But then I remind myself: I still have healthy children, a loving marriage, a home, food and so much more to appreciate. You never know how long things will last, so embrace them while you have them.
As you embark into the future, perhaps you’ll ask yourself with me:
What do I want to focus on: the light, the dark, or the whole picture?
And while I recommend taking a moment each day for a gratitude practice, if you are ever feeling sad, angry or fearful, that is an especially helpful time to take a few minutes to ponder:
What do I have to feel grateful for right now?