Newsletter – November, 2004

**Companion Resources Newsletter**

edited by Paul D. Leichty

Volume 6, No. 11 November 2004

Four young adults are killed in an auto accident. A dozen people die in a suicide bombing. A young man commits suicide after struggling with Tourette’s syndrome and substance abuse. A family whose adult son has autism, struggles to find a good living situation for him. A husband and his legally blind wife finally have a child who turns out to have the same visual impairments as the mother. A woman with Down syndrome struggles with the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

In the midst of pain and struggle and even tragedy, I am reminded that life is a gift! Life is a gift for which to be grateful! None of us knows what tomorrow will bring.

I begin writing this on Thanksgiving evening after two turkey dinners and seeing many members of my wife’s and my extended family. I’m also thinking about gifts as Christmas approaches. Yet, as much as I find that I get caught up in the daily activities and the “things” of life, it is the experience of sharing life, of simply being with other people, that turns out to be important and meaningful.

Life is a gift! I’m aware that I think of my life with thanksgiving when I become aware of all of the pain and suffering of the world. Here I am, living in the wealthiest, most powerful nation of the world while many are going hungry. Why am I so blessed?

Life is a gift! This month, I celebrated two jobs that I find enriching and meaningful and allow me to serve others while earning an adequate income. Meanwhile, many around the world struggle with a “dead-end” job just to survive. Why am I so blessed?

Life is a gift! I recently visited the doctor to be certified as reasonably healthy for an insurance discount. Yes, I am starting to experience the aches and tiredness of getting older. But I have enjoyed good physical health over these 50+ years while others struggle. Why am I so blessed?

Life is a gift! I also have many reminders around me of mental health issues. I try to be conscious of dealing with stress, getting adequate rest, and maintaining healthy relationships. Yet there are many persons who face situations that much more stressful and whose brains are not keeping the right balance of chemicals. Why am I so blessed?

Life is a gift! I am entering a phase of life where disabilities become even more a part of daily living than I have already known. Parents are aging and trying to decide about such things as retirement centers and assisted living. It’s a reminder that such decisions will not be far behind for my generation. I am blessed by the longevity of close family members. It also means learning to care in new ways as together we face the consequences of aging.

On the one hand there is a profound mystery in asking the question, “Why am I blessed?” I sometimes feel guilty that despite my share of pain and struggle, I have so much while others struggle so much more. “Why me, God? Why do I receive these benefits while another receives so many more struggles?” Yet, despite wrestling with this question, I know in my heart a very simple answer.

Why am I so blessed? It is not because I deserve it more than others. It is not so that I can feel comfortable and enjoy life. It is not the reward for a certain level of faith in God. No, to the extent that I have been blessed, it is blessing for a purpose. I have been blessed in order to be able to pass along those blessings in ministry and sharing with others.

There are times when I think, “I want everyone to have at least the blessings that I enjoy in life.” I feel helpless in making a difference when it comes to hunger and war and hate, sickness, and disease, mental breakdowns and disabilities. When I get hung up in feeling guilty about blessings, I realize that I can’t change the world in one magical wave of a wand. But I can pass on the blessings. I can structure my life and build relationships and community little by little so that God’s blessings can have channels to flow to others.

I realize I have found the greatest sense of community in the midst of the greatest struggles of my life. Yet, it is not in the struggles themselves that I find the community. Rather, struggles provide the context for giving and receiving blessings. It is in sharing the pain and the challenges that we can also share the simple joys and small triumphs. We bless each other and thus build community.

So, in some small way, I send out blessings to all of you as readers. I give thanks for the ways in which you build community by passing on the blessings to others.

God’s peace go with you in this Advent season of wonder and hope!

Paul D. Leichty

Phone/Fax: 1-877-214-9838 (toll free)

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