The Abyssinian prophet Abba Dabba von Schtickel once wrote, “You downhearted, mon? You feeling low? You think the world's against you? If so, try this: Count you blessings. You fail to do this — you one tam fool!"
I have tried to follow Abba's advice. In fact, as I've gone along, I've divided blessings into two types: positive and negative.
Positive ones aren't hard to list: Life itself; decent health; someone to love who loves you; children, friends, good neighbors; a leak-free home; the same home with a paid-up mortgage; a job; a cat named Ellie snoozing beside your computer as you write. I bet you have your own list.
However, negative blessings can also have power, glory, and deliverance. Over the years, they have helped me to emerge from dozens of sloughs of despond. I'll list examples you may be familiar with.
Medical readings. The symptoms have been there for months: an ache here, a pain there, persistent coughing. You're sure you have contracted ephemeral consectualitis, same as your Uncle Mort, who died of it in 1924. Your doctor — a thorough woman — checks you out from scalp to toenail. Now the verdict day arrives. "Give it to me, doctor. I'm a tough guy." She says, "Relax, sir. We found nothing wrong." That's a negative blessing, wouldn't you say?
Busted tools. Jake had been drinking for hours. On his way home a patrolman pulls him over. "Step out, sir. We have to check your blood alcohol level." Jake knows this will put the kibosh on his job and his marriage. In despair, he blows into the tube. The officer checks it out, and cusses. "This breathalyzer is broken again. I'll get you and your car home this time, but you'd better change your act, pal." Another negative blessing.
Take This Job and Shove It! On the surface, quitting or being fired from a job would seem to be a negative event. But what if your duties required you to shovel slime 10 hours a day, or report to a boss (male or female) who was born without a brain, heart or soul? Finally, the big day arrives. "Begone, worthless vassal!" says your boss. But even as you head for the door and perhaps weeks of job-hunting, your spirits soar. Fate has set you free. What a blessing.
You are single and have found your soulmate. True? Well, not quite. And your partner also knows it. After months (or maybe years) of true love or something like it, you are both wise and honest enough to know that marriage or another long-term arrangement simply would not work. So you kiss, say goodbye and move on. And for months afterward you hurt. Real bad. But just as time wounds all heels, it also heals most wounds. The day finally comes when you realize that your breakup was probably the luckiest break of your life. First the pain, then the deliverance.
The breakdown of the FPMs. Throughout our land are millions of thoroughly decent persons who, willy-nilly, have become FPMs — food processing machines. Most of us (I'm one of them) didn't mean to end up that way. But our love of food and the act of eating, plus our dislike of exercise, have transformed, shortened and often ended our lives.
But if FPMs are lucky, negative blessings await. They often begin with a phone call to 9-1-1. Within minutes a squad of trained men and women arrive. Then, on to the nearest hospital emergency ward. There, medical specialists prod, poke and measure us. It's usually a lousy thing to go through. But for a percentage of FPMs, it can be a life-saving blessing, a wake-up call. These men and women are scared witless. Their fear catapults them into a new, disciplined way of life in which mindless munching and other destructive habits no longer rule.
Faithful readers, I wish you blessings in all formats.
Bob Driver's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.