The next few weeks and perhaps the next few years are going to be awful. Keep counting your blessings anyway, remain kind, and continue to make a difference.
Peggy Noonan wrote My Brothers and Sisters on March 8, 2002 in the Wall Street Journal. She subtitled it “A report from New York, six months on” indicating it was a reflection on 9/11. I have re-formatted an excerpt as a meditation on the need for counting your blessings.
The odd thing about these people is that they have everything. They are rich, accomplished, healthy; they have marriages, children, love; they don't have to be up nights worrying about paying the rent or the electric bill. And they are not really happy. They have been lucky so long they don't even know they're lucky anymore. That's the bad thing that can happen to you when you've been lucky too long: You start to think it's not luck, it's what you deserve. And instead of being grateful you get a bitter-tinged sense of entitlement. You start to think you deserve it, you made the right choices. You're smarter than the dumb people, or more accomplished than the lazy people. When the truth is you're lucky and blessed and should be on your knees saying thank you for your good fortune.
The next few weeks and perhaps the next few years will continue to be marked by considerable turmoil between the rise of a blood drenched Islamic Caliphate, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and an Ebola epidemic that is currently estimated to kill 20,000 and may kill ten or a hundred times as many if it kills enough doctors and nurses in one or more African countries to trigger a collapse of urban healthcare systems.
Perishable Opportunities For Kindness
There is much we are aware of and little that we can influence, but don’t let that become an excuse for not making a difference where you can. We may only live once but I prefer a 19th century Quaker assessment of the obligation that places on us over any number of hedonistic or self-centered “you only live once” philosophies:
“I expect to pass through life but once. If therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again.”
Related Articles and Blog Posts
- Peggy Noonan’s site also has a copy of her “My Brothers and Sisters” essay.
- Tony Schwartz: Notice the Good, Cultivate Good Habits, Slow Down, and Do the Right Thing
- Travelling Hopefully
- Annie Dillard on the Appreciation of Grace and Beauty
- Thanksgiving 2008