Editorial — An accounting of our blessings

Glenn Rutherford

Truth be told, most of us are lucky, pure and simple.

We live lives blessed beyond all measure, with all the fresh water we need, most of the food we want and like, in homes that much of the world would call luxurious. We have jobs, most of us, and decent medical care, and a social system that will try to care for us when hard times knock at our doors.

This isn’t meant to discount or ignore those of us who face hardships. We’ve seen our share of tornadoes and hurricanes, wildfires and drought. We’ve seen floods. Many of us have had medical emergencies; family troubles; general misfortune.

But for the most part, we’re lucky and we have been for quite some time.

Consider this: In the rest of the world, as this is being written, people are dealing with disasters on grand scales.

There are millions of civil war refugees sitting in the midst of water-barren lands under the sun in the Sudan, Niger and elsewhere in the Sahel and sub- Saharan Africa. In a recent New York Times photograph, thousands of people — most of them women and children — were sitting in the desert under umbrellas or makeshift huts, waiting for help that in all likelihood wasn’t coming.

The accompanying Times story said no one knew what the future might hold for those thousands; death in a matter of days or weeks was part of the equation.

There was an earthquake in Morocco a few days ago, a temblor that killed more than 3,000 people.

The flooding in Libya two weeks ago has killed more than 3,900 with more than 9,000 still missing, according to the World Health Organization. There are still rural areas of that nation in northern Africa that rescue workers have yet to reach. No doubt the fatality figures from that disaster will increase, too.

Here’s another anecdote closer to home.

A former World Series baseball star spent his last years on earth battling Alzheimer’s Disease, as pernicious a malady as the world has ever known. This former professional athlete had kept himself in terrific condition, playing golf, working at the baseball school he founded once his playing days ended. He never gained more than a few pounds over his playing weight, such was his attention to his health.

A heart attack a few years ago slowed him a bit, but within a few months he was back on the golf course, though he did cut back on work hours.

Didn’t matter. Alzheimer’s came calling, and his family and friends watched as he slowly became belligerent, slowly lost any touch he had with reality. He was always a man of faith, and that same faith sustained his family during the slow spiral toward his ultimate end.

They also were blessed to have Hospice care, and through it all, their faith and the available care sustained them. In the end, his widow and members of the family talked about their blessings, about how lucky they were to have had such support.

That’s what we all need to remember. We have avenues for help; people and services and resources, priests and our parish communities, who can come to our assistance when we need it. So even in dark days, we need to recall our blessings.

Charles Dickens said we should “reflect upon your present blessings, of when every person has plenty; not on your past misfortunes, of which all people have some.”

And writer Joan Ambu of Cameroon noted, “If we could spend time counting our blessings, one by one, rather than obsessing on our obstacles, we would realize how blessed we truly are.”

Pope Francis also reminds us of our ultimate blessing. In a service at the Vatican last month, the pope said that even during our troubles, we should take heart that “Christ is with us and walking beside us. … We are not alone on the path of life, because Christ is with us and Christ helps us to walk.”

Glenn O. Rutherford
Record Editor Emeritus

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