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The art of letting go

We are too prone to engrave our trials in marble and write our blessings in sand. – C. H. Spurgeon

I wish I knew how to do it easily. I wish it didn’t take up so much time and effort to set aside and move on. Perhaps the 19th century Baptist preacher was correct. Perhaps we are all too prone to cling to our misfortunes at the expense of remembering our blessings.

The sentiment seems trite when the challenges are all encompassing.

It’s a week away from Christmas and it won’t be a marvelous time for many. Far from counting their blessings, there will be families who will be mourning the loss of a loved one. For some old, frail and forgotten, it will be another year alone. Parents, struggling to make ends meet, may be contemplating going hungry so that their children can have something special on the day.

A friend of mine works in the healthcare system. She hates this time of year. She has seen too many patients abandoned by their families, with no place to go and no one to turn to.

Yet count our blessings we must. For we may be lost without it. Studies suggest that the resilient can maintain positive emotions during times of adversity. It helps them cope and increases personal well-being. Positive interactions and our ability to see it, feel good from it, helps us continue through the trials that can come our way.

One friend, who was going through a particularly rough patch in her life, would sit on the back porch and think of one thing, just one thing, she could be grateful for that day before she went back inside.

Another turned her focus outwards. Her situation may be difficult, but it wasn’t going to prevent her from helping others. From working as a disability support worker to an intern in the local childcare centre, she did what she could to feed her family and help out.

She says “Your problems seem smaller, the more you can give to others.”

I wonder if she is right. I wonder if letting go of our burdens and cares, of remembering our blessings however small, is something that takes thought and deliberate action on our part. It may not be a passive way to forget about what’s before us or the difficulties just passed. It may not mean simply waiting for the pain to go away. It may indeed be a by-product of our ability to look outside our own circumstances and think of the welfare others.

For those who are going through a difficult time, the impact of small kindnesses can be huge.

This time many years ago, a family were on the brink of homelessness. The mother took her children and fled after years of physical and verbal abuse from her husband. It was almost Christmas. They were in temporary accommodation and she was desperate to provide something ordinary and normal for her kids.

The local charity turned up with Christmas food for the family and presents for her children. She still remembers the day vividly. It was one moment of joy in an otherwise terrible year. She says it helped her in so many ways.

Years later she has got back on her feet. She works in finance. Her children are settled and doing well in school. But she’s never forgotten the small kindness that so many strangers displayed by their donation. This year she helped that local charity raise funds for their services by telling her story to a room full of people, including the Australian Prime Minister.

Her testimony helped raise thousands that night.

It’s almost Christmas again. Perhaps it’s a good time not only to mark our own blessings, but be one to others and help them engrave theirs in stone.

The art of letting go of our own burdens, of being able to truly remember our blessings, may mean not thinking about us at all, but to focus on others. On their kindness to us. On our kindness to them.


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December 2017
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