"We should certainly count our blessings, but we should also make our blessings count."
Yesterday morning, my family and I got up at 5:30am in Mexico to begin our journey home from a holiday retreat. Eight hours of packing, driving, flying, and standing in line later, we arrived at the airport in Los Angeles physically intact but emotionally a bit worse for wear.
It was at this point, standing in yet another line with a screaming toddler in my arms, that my six year old daughter Clara decided she absolutely had to have a look at her passport picture. This was a seemingly innocuous request, but in fact would have involved my unhooking several bags from my shoulders and letting loose the toddler who, screaming aside, had already demonstrated her intention to leave no 'Do Not Enter' sign undisturbed in her exploration of the world of airport immigration.
Now, it would have been the easiest thing in the world to have thought 'why me?' when Clara was nipping at my ankles and the people around me in line were silently nominating me for a 'person I'd most like to not sit next to on an airplane' award. (Actually, many of the people around me may have been asking themselves just that.)
But after responding to Clara's continual requests like a six year old adult, (I believe the words "I'm not going to do it and you can't make me!" may have passed my lips), I took a deep breath, recognized that my reaction was more a function of my emotional state than her behavior, and I apologized for being mean to her.
"Mean?" she asked, incredulously. "You weren't mean to me. You're my daddy. Daddies can't be mean."
It was at this point that the question 'why me?' popped into my head. Why me? Why do I get to be loved so unconditionally by someone who is all too frequently in the line of fire when I lose my cool? How is it possible that her love and trust are still firmly intact after six years of sporadically positive parenting?
As I thought about some possible answers to those questions, the following story came to mind:
One day, a human went to heaven, in the way that humans often do. On arrival, the human was greeted by a host of angels and given a tour of all of heaven's wonders. Over the course of the tour, the human noticed that there was one room the angels quickly glided past each time they approached.
"What's in that room?" the human asked.
The angels looked at each other as if they'd been dreading the question. Finally, one of them stepped forward and said kindly, "We're not allowed to keep you out, but please believe us - you don't want to go in there."
The human's mind raced at the thought of what might be contained in that room. What could be so horrible that the angels of heaven would want to hide it away? The human knew that one should probably take angels at their word, but found it very hard to resist temptation. "After all", the human thought. "I'm only human."
Slowly walking towards the room, the human was filled with dread and wonder at what horrors might be about to be revealed. But in fact, the room was filled with the most wonderful things imaginable - a beautiful home, nice cars, great wisdom, a happy family, loving friends, and riches beyond measure.
Eyes wide, the human turned back to the angels. "But why didn't you want me to come in here? This room is filled with the most amazing things I've ever seen!"
The angels looked at each other sadly, then back at the human.
"These are all the blessings God wanted you to have while you were on earth, but you never believed you were worthy."
There is a notion in Jewish mysticism that the nature of the universe is not one of reward and punishment but rather one of receiving or rejecting God's blessings. When we connect with our sense of value in the world and connection to others and to life, we become like God - we share naturally and receive continually. When we cut off from our awareness of being of value and a part of all things, we become distinctly human. We retreat into ourselves and experience a world of pain, loss and suffering.
Maybe when good things happen to me, it's not so much a reward for good behavior as it is a case of an abundant universe sharing freely with one of its citizens. Maybe the reason I have a daughter who loves me unconditionally is to make it easier for me to be a really great father to her. And if you find yourself to be happy, or beautiful, or successful, or talented, or wealthy, maybe it's so you will be able to share your happiness, beauty, talent, and wealth with the world.
Michael Neill is a licensed Master Trainer of NLP and has written over 450 articles on in the areas of business success, money, relationships, health, happiness, well-being, and spirituality. His weekly coaching column is reprinted in newspapers and magazines throughout the world, and can be found online at http://www.geniuscatalyst.com