Hearts at Work
A Column by James Tipton
“Count Your Blessings”
In the early 50’s, when our family finally succumbed to television, each Saturday night we watched together the very popular show, Your Hit Parade. Even as a young boy I was fascinated by female beauty and so I fell in love with the lovely and innocent-looking Gisele MacKenzie singing Count Your Blessings, which she sang for several Saturdays in a row. The lines that stuck are “and I fall asleep, counting my blessings.”
For many years, for the most part, I have continued to fall asleep counting my blessings (and of course I have continued to fall in love with innocent-looking brunettes… and that has usually been a blessing).
Even the king of outlaw country music, Willie Nelson, said “When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around.” And he later added, “I´ve had more dumb luck than anybody I know.”
Louis Armstrong counts his blessings in What a Wonderful World, and who can forget Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music singing These Are a Few of My Favorite Things, things like “Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens/Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens/Brown paper packages tied up with strings….”
I remember Emily in Thornton Wilder´s play Our Town exclaiming ecstatically, “Oh, Earth, you´re too wonderful for anyone to realize you.”
I discovered decades ago that one type of Buddhism, for perhaps millennia, has used “blessing beads,” usually a string of 33 beads, because one ancient scholar decided that 33 was the number of people we could bless at one sitting without losing focus or becoming exhausted or feeling rushed. When I was living alone in a solar home on a high mesa in western Colorado, I adapted this idea to the 14 windows I had on the south side of the house. Each morning as I raised 14 window blinds I sent forth a blessing to whomsoever came into my mind. Each evening as I lowered those blinds, I did the same. Whether blessing others or counting our blessings…both come out of the same place inside of us, close to our heart.
Some years ago I began making blessing beads out of polished agate, obsidian, jasper, strands of ten beads each, so that one could touch each bead and either send forth a blessing or remember a blessing received. I like to let my heart decide whom I will bless or what blessing seems to leap forth to be remembered. Now I usually just count using my ten fingers, and some nights I will do two or even three sets of ten.
Each day has blessings inside of it and sometimes one special blessing. Here is one for me today. Reyna and Rosa, two young Mexican women who are sisters, are like granddaughters to me. They clean house for me, care for me when I am sick, and bring me special gifts. I see them two, sometimes three, times each week. Today they brought me a lovely photograph, taken of them together earlier this week by the instructor at the beauty school they attend in Buena Vista. What a blessing. Every day I wake up excited about the blessings that lie just ahead, knowing that at every moment grace, in ways I might not even realize, is moving toward me, one step at a time.
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