Count Your Blessings

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It is all too easy in troubling in times like this to focus on the immediate problems that are right in front of us.  Whoever we are, each of us has his or her own list of problems.

With that in mind, it is useful to take our minds off our troubles. We can start by looking back in time to put our own place in history in proper perspective. Most of the freedoms we enjoy today have their origin in European history, most specifically the Magna Carta. In the year 1215, the English nobility – barons, bishops, and abbots – went, in force, to King John I and demanded that he affirm certain rights.

Except for the inclusion of habeas corpus and the right of trial by jury, the common man was not particularly intended to be a direct beneficiary of the document. His time would come. Indeed, we find elements of the Magna Carta in our own Constitution.

What is easy to forget is that, sadly, billions of people in the world today do not have civil rights that existed in England 800 years ago. As troublesome as it is to watch our Congress in action, the fact that they and the rest of our government exist is a great blessing.  

Although we are in troubling economic times, the GDP of the United States has exploded since World War II. The GDP per capita has increased from $15,000 per person to just under $50,000 today. While poverty still exists today, even those in the lowest economic groups are much better off than a few generations ago.  

Life expectancy has increased from 50 in 1900 to about 65 in the World War II era to about 78 today. Compare that with the current world average of 66 years. In 1950, you only had a 67 percent chance of making it to age 65. Today, 83 percent of people make into the Medicare years. 

With that firmly in mind, think about how your life is much better today than when you were a kid.

So it might be a nice exercise to sit down with your family and make a list of your blessings. Not only is it fun, but psychologists have shown it is helpful to your well-being. The hope expressed in the Preamble to our Constitution was "to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity."
But it is also important to demonstrate to your kids that those personal freedoms, more than anything else, created opportunity. Many of the blessings they enjoy are a result of the hard work of you and your forebearers. They need to understand that the blessings they will enjoy in the future will be a function of them committing themselves to carrying on that tradition as opportunities present themselves to their generation. 

Finally, I find it enriching to remember the words to Irving Berlin's "other song" in the movie White Christmas

When I'm worried and I can't sleep
I count my blessings instead of sheep
And I fall asleep counting my blessings.

When my bankroll is getting small
I think of when I had none at all
And I fall asleep counting my blessings.

I think about a nursery and I picture curly heads
And one by one I count them as they slumber in their beds.

If you're worried and you can't sleep
Just count your blessings instead of sheep
And you'll fall asleep counting your blessings.

Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, and Happy Holidays to all.

Randy Johnson – Author of How to Save Thousands of Dollars on your Home Mortgage and Savvy Borrower
articles, Randy is a mortgage broker who has financed over $1 billion
in properties. He writes about home buying and real estate finance
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  • Abram Nipper

    Very good article. Cool.

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