From The Power of Positive Thinking, Norman Vincent Peale, 1952, p. 20-22 (ed.):
A man 52 years of age consulted me. He was in great despondency. He said he was all through. He informed me that everything he had built up over his lifetime had been swept away.
“Everything?” I asked.
“Everything,” he repeated. “I am through. I have nothing left at all. Everything is gone, and I am too old to start all over again. There is no hope.”
I said, “Suppose we take a piece of paper and write down what you have left.”
“There’s no use,” he sighed. “I told you I haven’t a single thing left.”
I said, “Let’s see anyway.” Then I asked, “Is your wife still with you?”
“Why, yes, of course,” he said, “and she is wonderful. We have been married for 30 years. She would never leave me no matter how bad things are.”
“All right, let us put that down– your wife is still with you and she will never leave you no matter what happens. Now, do you have any children?”
“Yes,” he replied, “I have three and they are certainly wonderful. I have been touched by the way they have come to me and said, ‘Dad, we love you, and we’ll stand by you.’”
“Well, then,” I said, “that is number two– three children who love you and who will stand by you. Got any friends?”
“Yes,” he said, “I have some really fine friends. I must admit they have been pretty decent. They have come around and said they would like to help me, but what can they do?”
“That is number three– you have some friends who would like to help you and who hold you in esteem. How about your integrity?”
“My integrity is all right,” he replied, “I have always tried to do the right thing and my conscience is clear.”
“All right,” I said, “there’s number four– integrity. How about your health?”
“My health is all right,” he said, “I have had very few sick days and I guess I am in pretty good shape physically.”
“So let’s put that down as number five– good physical health. How about the United States? Do you think this is still the land of opportunity?”
“Yes,” he said, “”It is the only country in the world I would want to live.”
“That is number six– you live in the United States, land of opportunity, and you are glad to be here.” Then I asked, “How about your religious faith? Do you believe in God and that God will help you?”
“Yes,” he said. “I do not think I could have gotten through this at all if I hadn’t had some help from God.”
“Now,” I said, “let’s list the assets we have figured out: 1. A wonderful wife, married for thirty years; 2. Three devoted children who will stand by you; 3. Friends who will help you and hold you in esteem; 4. Integrity; nothing to be ashamed of; 5. Good physical health; 6. Live in the U. S., the greatest country in the world; 7. Have religious faith.” I pushed the list across the table to him. “Take a look at that. I guess you have quite a lot of total assets. I thought you told me everything had been swept away.”
He grinned ashamedly. “I guess I didn’t think of those thing. Perhaps my life isn’t so bad at that,” he said pensively.
In his book The Lord God Made Them All English country veterinarian James Herriot tells of being called out on a particular Sunday night to a couple’s home some ten miles away to look at their dog. When he got there, the wife of the family invited him into a shabbily furnished room, one end of which was partly curtained off. She drew back the curtain and introduced her husband whose name was Ron. Ron was in bed, a skeleton of a man with hollowed out eyes set in a yellow looking face.
“That’s the patient” she said, pointing to a dachshund sitting by the bed, “He’s gone funny on his legs; he can’t walk.”
The vet was struggling all this time with irritation for being called out on a Sunday for a case which could easily have waited a couple of days. Then Ron said in a husky voice, “I was a miner. Roof fell in on me. I got a broken back. Doctor says I’ll never walk again.” After a pause he continued, “But I count my blessings. I suffer very little and I’ve got the best wife in the world.”
The vet couldn’t help wondering what those blessings were– the wife, obviously, the dog who provided companionship when his wife was out, and the marvelous view across the Yorkshire Dales where he used to tramp for miles. That was all, but that was enough.
By then the irritation had seeped away. Driving the ten miles home across the Dales, Herriot felt very humble.
“Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has many; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”
(After Stephen commented on how Levin always seemed to be so happy): Levin replied, “Perhaps that is because I rejoice in what I have and do not bother about what I don’t have.” –Leo Tolstoy in Anna Karenina
I once asked Eddie Rickenbacker what was the biggest lesson he had learned from drifting about with his companions in life rafts for 21 days, hopelessly lost in the Pacific (after his plane was shot down in WW II). He said, “The biggest lesson I learned from that experience was that if you have all the fresh water you want to drink and all the food you want to eat, you ought never to complain about anything.”
–Dale Carnegie, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living
Psalm 103:1-2 — Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.
James 1:16-17a — My dear brothers and sisters, don’t let anyone fool you– every good and perfect gift is from God.
Psalm 136:1 — O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.
When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.
–Johnson Oatman, Jr. (1856-1922)