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Counting your blessings when times are hard

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POSTED January 26, 2009 1:04 a.m.
In these hard economic times, everything looks bleak.
Hundreds of thousands are losing their homes to foreclosures.
Millions of workers are losing their jobs and their means to support their families.
Prices of food, gas, bills for basic needs such as water and sewer and everything else are skyrocketing.
Businesses are being shuttered, are seeking reorganization or filing for bankruptcies.
Lifetime retirement savings are being eroded as stocks plummet. Et cetera, ad infinitum.
Yes, the pervading economic environment is bleak. And, as the new President Barack Obama predicted - in fact, assured the country in his inaugural speech - things will get even bleaker before they get any better.
But even when times are bleak, there are still many blessings to be found in life. Talk to anyone who lived through the Great Depression, or anyone who survived the seemingly insurvivable in the Third World country where they came from, or anyone who has gone through various tumults and upheavals in their lives, and you’ll hear the same testament from them.
The blessing of seeing many people stepping up to a philanthropic cause even when they have to really dig deep for a dime to share, for one thing. Which reminds me of an anecdote shared by St. Anthony’s Pastor, Father Patrick Walker, in his homily at the recent funeral service for longtime parishioner JoAnn Marx. During one of his visits at her home before she died, he had mentioned that the parish was having a difficult time reaching its $1 million fund-raising goal, money that the church direly needs for various ministerial growth. JoAnn’s optimistic answer was something Father Walker remembered really well. It’s when times are hard that people truly open their hearts and wallets and willingly step up to the plate, she assured Father Walker. And indeed, she was right, he happily pointed out, as evidenced by the fact the church not only reached its goal but far surpassed it.
Family members who love you despite your many shortcomings, friends who are happy and willing to reach out when times are hard - those are real blessings when times are rough.
And that’s not even mentioning the many things we enjoy and often take for granted that people would die for, or are dying for, to come to America: freedom.
The freedom to be heard, either as a member of the majority (as the majority that “speaks” during an election) or as the minority when even the lowliest individual’s voice is heard.
The freedom to go to any church of your choice and pray, or to choose neither, without fear of persecution which is the tragic everyday reality for millions of people throughout the world where totalitarianism and absolute dictatorship rules.
The freedom to pursue happiness and secure material comfort for you and your family simply by dint of honest hard work without fear of government or whimsical rule of law preventing you from doing just that.
The freedom to speak against your own government and government officials when you disagree with them without having to fear for your life. Which brings to mind a joke that former President Ronald Reagan loved to tell. He was having an argument with Mikhail Gorbachev, the former president of the Soviet Union. Reagan pointed out to his communist counterpart (this was prior to the break-up of the powerful Union of Soviet Socialist Republic) that the democratic process in America, which the Soviet Union blatantly lacked, allows any American to go up to their president and tell him to his face that he disagrees with the way he is running the country without fear of negative repercussions or reprisal. Gorbachev responded by saying any Soviet Union citizen can do the exact same thing to his face without getting into trouble with the communist leader. He told Reagan, “They can also come up to me anytime and say, ‘Mr. President, I disagree with the way President Reagan is doing his job!’”
The freedom guaranteed to every individual in this democratic country is no joke, of course. It is a wealth that knows no bound and whose measure is beyond measure. Something truly precious to have and to hold on to even when the cupboards are bare.

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