Take time to appreciate blessings

Commander's Message
Garrison Commander
Fort McPherson and Fort Gillem

There are times each of us feels like life couldn't be much harder.

Your home water heater goes bad, leaving a mess of wet carpets and damaged floor, walls and furniture.

Before you've finished working out the logistics with your insurance company and the contractors assigned to replace and repair the damage, you find out your car needs new brakes, rotors and tires.

On top of that, the orthodontist tells you your eldest needs braces, you have two new meetings to prepare for at work, you don't know what to buy your father for Christmas and your spouse thinks you should talk to your mother about asking personal questions.

You feel like a bomb about to explode. The holiday season is a very busy time. We're constantly told this is the time to be of good cheer, be just a little nicer and focus on giving. Unfortunately, it's also a time of high stress.

Even just the pressure of maneuvering through overcrowded stores trying to find the perfect gift - something your loved one will adore and you find affordable and appropriate, can be great.

Multiply that anxiety by the number of people on your shopping list, balanced against your expendable income, and even without big disasters occurring you can find yourself tense. It's no wonder the holidays can be a time of heightened domestic violence depression and suicide. Sometimes we're so trapped in the pressure cooker we can't find a release.

I'm amazed when I hear the phrase "he felt he had nothing to live for." We each have so many blessings, but bad luck is so immediate and demanding and blessings can be such a quiet, intricate part of our lives that we sometimes forget to be thankful for them. Are you not sure what you have to be thankful for' Let me ask: Do you currently have a job' If so, you're ahead of the 254,874 unemployed workers in metro Atlanta in October.

Do you eat regularly' From 2006 until 2008, 14.2 percent of Georgia households lacked access to enough food for an active, healthy life. Do you have a warm, secure place to live' Estimates of Atlanta's homeless population range from 11,000 to 20,000. Forty percent of Atlanta's homeless are veterans. These questions focus on but a few of the many necessities so many of our neighbors don't enjoy on a daily basis.

They don't have the security of coverage from health and auto insurance plans; the means to buy the electronic toys, video games, designer clothes and other items that, while not "needs," enhance our enjoyment of life; and the knowledge that personal and professional help is available, at no charge, when they need it. If you do, you're blessed. Often, the things we should be grateful for are big and obvious: loved ones, good health, food, water and shelter. Other times, it's the little things that mean so much, such as our senses - hearing, sight, touch, smell and taste.

We shouldn't take senses for granted. After all, the ability to hear a child say "I love you," see smiles on friends' faces, feel the gentle caress of our significant other, smell flowers in bloom and taste foods we consider wonderful, help us not just to muddle through life, but to live it. Hard blows are going to come at us throughout our lives - what's important is how we handle them. Being grateful - being happy - is a state of mind. Sometimes it's easier to focus on the negative - the hard, bad, stressful stuff can overshadow the good.

But which is more productive: focusing on how unfair life is to keep throwing so many challenges your way, or adopting a plan of prioritizing what has to be done and determining the most effective way to, little by little, work your way through the problems' Being active in solving the problem makes it less overwhelming.

I recently heard the quote, "If the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, water your grass." How appropriate! After all, being grateful isn't just being satisfied with what you have - it's also acknowledging your opportunity to expand, whether personally, professionally, in your relationships or in other ways.

The quote reminds us that, rather than covet someone else's success, we should concentrate on achieving our own. Even if we already see ourselves as thriving, there is always room for improvement, and as we grow and improve, we become healthier, more content and more satisfied. Our blessings are multiplied. If you're aware of your blessings, maybe you can go a step further: are you willing to share your blessings with those who are less fortunate' Opportunities abound, both within and outside of the military community.

Today, take a moment to reflect on all you have to be thankful for. While you're counting your blessings, don't forget to count freedom. Be thankful for the servicemembers who serve beside us every day, and for those who survive deployments and are able to return to their loving, relieved Families. Be thankful for the commitment and patriotism of those Soldiers who pay the ultimate sacrifice, and for the Families who grieve them. Be thankful for the veterans who've ensured our freedoms since America was colonized.

Remember what you have to be thankful for. Of course, overcoming stress isn't always as easy as positive thinking. If you find yourself thinking of abusing either yourself or others, seek help. The military community has a variety of professionals available to help you find relief. From your chain of command to chaplains, from Army Family Advocacy experts to mental health specialists, you are not alone.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16