A nun once paid a visit to my elderly mother and my mother told the sister how lucky she felt. The sister corrected her and said, “You aren't lucky, you’re blessed.” Afterwards, my mother would always correct others who would say they were lucky. Often it would be herself she would correct, as the habit of saying how lucky she was wasn’t easy to break.
I am reminded of that when I look back at memories of my mother, when I look for ways to embrace the past and keep in contact with those I loved who are no longer with me. I look back at the many lessons I learned from my mom and consider myself blessed for them.
I know there is a tendency of some to point out the misuse of such a phrase “I’m blessed.” I’ve heard people compare it to considering yourself more loved by God or so deluded in your religious beliefs that you justify your own wealth while others are permitted to suffer and die. I recognize the potential for misuse of the concept of being blessed, but I am not talking about that. Allow me to explain.
At the time my mother first came to use the phrase “I’m blessed”, she was already quite elderly. She was a widow who did not drive a car and was at the mercy of others to get groceries, get to doctor’s appointments, or get a haircut. For the most part, she was at the mercy of others as to whether she had any company at all or whether she would be home all by herself all day. When she spoke of being blessed, she was saying that her needs were being provided for. Her catchphrase would be triggered by the smallest of kindnesses or the most commonplace gifts from nature: a call from a child to see if she needed anything or a neighbor stopping by with a fresh tomato from her garden. I can’t imagine the term blessing used for anything more ostentatious.
The realization of the joy my mother felt in the phrase “I’m blessed” struck home last summer when, while walking my dog, I came across a little outdoor workout area near my house. Along the lakeshore, free for anyone to use, were six exercise machines. It became my practice over the summer to visit it several times a week. Riding a bicycle given to me by my brother, I would pedal my way through glorious sunlight and summer weather to my little spot on the lake, one which I almost always had to myself.
It was while sitting at one of the machines, taking a breather, that the memory of my mom came to me. Across the street from the little workout area was Lake Michigan, glistening in the sun. Even on the hottest of days, the cold it retained kept me from ever getting too hot. And on the other side of me was an offshoot of the Manitowoc River. On any given day I would see a variety of bird species there, most notably redwing blackbirds and ducks. From time to I would see a heron or egret. Sitting here amongst the beauty of nature I could not help appreciating the feeling of being blessed. The bike I rode was gifted to me, the place I sat at was open to all, and the beauty nature provides is a right gifted to every living being.
At such moments—and there were many throughout the summer—the awareness of being blessed would overcome me and I was not concerned with other matters. I was not thinking about having to go to work in a few hours nor any other responsibilities I might have. I was not worried about what I was lacking because I was intensely aware that the most important and most rewarding things were also the simplest and those things we all share in common.
This is the meaning of being blessed to me and the one which I would like everyone else to experience. I understand those who hate the term because of those who use it to justify having great wealth while others are lacking the basic necessities. But I would like to point out to those who are justly turned off by such an attitude that they are losing out by not realizing the true beauty to be found in the feeling of being blessed. Between the misuse and dislike of the word is a wonderful and profound experience to be had, one that will stay with you and guide you into a way of life that will provide lifelong contentment and a sustainable future for all.
May you live a blessed life.