“Thank God 2015 is over,” a Facebook friend said.
Not only was the world “going to hell in a hand basket,” but he had to change jobs and move to a new city. The family pet had died and one of his children who had just started college, dropped out and moved back into the family home. They had to buy a new car because the old one died, as did the air conditioner in their new house—and the list went on.
Not wanting to lay any more weight onto the way my friend saw things, I simply commented, “Here’s to 2016!”
My friend’s post reminded me of when I was singing gospel music in the choir of our local African American Episcopal Church and I would hear the preacher allude to a particular saying from the pulpit almost every Sunday morning:
“I’ll take my blessings any way they come.”
He’d make this statement not only about every day life, but also when the church didn’t get as much money in the Sunday baskets as he had hoped for. Or when the refinance of the building hadn’t come through. Or when just about anything didn’t quite match up to what he’d expected.
Since I’m not a practicing Christian, “I’ll take my blessings any way they come” could have sounded to me like a particularly paternalistic way of responding to benevolent events or the good that happens in the world. But I’d never heard having a positive attitude or looking at things from a different perspective put into such colloquial terms before.
Something in my basically Buddhist mind stood up and paid attention to the surrender behind the words. The preacher’s simple saying ended up being something that I would never forget.
“What about taking your blessings any way they come?” I wanted to say to my friend.
He’d said that he was glad 2015 was over, it was filled with terrible events.
True. We could all look at 2015 from that perspective and say we too thought the world was “going to hell in a hand basket.”
2015 was a year of suffering and pain.
There was the seemingly interminable war in the Middle East; horrific misery and losses of entire populations of misplaced refugees; terrorism, mass murder and random shootings throughout the United States with politicians and media all too happy to stoke a fearful response. There was still homelessness, global warming, poverty, prison overcrowding, poisons in our food—and as with my friend, the list goes on.
But, what if we were to apply the motto, “I’ll take my blessings any way they come,” to the world at large?
Maybe we would see that in the midst of all the bad, there was also good in 2015.
For example, as summarized in the New York Times:
1. At the United Nations 2015 Climate Change Conference in Paris, almost 200 countries came together in agreement to do what could be done to halt the progression of global warming.
2. Pope Francis, one of the world’s greatest spiritual leaders, came forward as a powerful voice for change.
3. Canada lead the way and opened its doors to tens of thousands of refugees;
4. The United States Supreme Court affirmed the marriage rights of same-sex couples who had been denied equal treatment under the law.
5. The use of the death penalty in the United States fell to the lowest levels in two decades.
6. The Black Lives Matter movement spread a message of peaceable resistance.
7. Laws raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour were passed in many States.
8. With California leading the way, many cities and states passed laws expanding rights and inclusion for undocumented immigrants, through driver’s licenses, legal services and health care.
9. Then there were the countless acts of kindness from individuals: the Parisians who opened their homes to strangers the night of the slaughter there; the families of the victims of the Charleston church shooting who publicly forgave the killer; the citizens who pressured the government to take the confederate battle flag down at the South Carolina State Capitol; the thousands of volunteers who provided food, clothing, tents and even baby carriers to the Syrian refugees in the breach of governments stepping forward.
A lot of good was accomplished in 2015. And still, as The New York Times Editorial Board so eloquently stated, it is also true that:
“Evil is everywhere, and anger and hatred are loud. The shouting drowns out the quiet; tragedy and disaster block the view of the good. Yet there are always signs of progress toward a better future.”
As the pastor of the church I was singing in would say, if we look for and take our blessings any way we can, they are there for us to see.
From that perspective, 2015 wasn’t only a bad year. It was also a very good year.
Author: Carmelene Siani
Editor: Nicole Cameron