Counting our blessings is not something that always comes naturally. Often it’s easier to count our problems.
We are late on a project. Our house needs work. If, God forbid, we have a serious health problem or lose our job, it can consume us.
Focusing on our problems, we sometimes overlook our blessings. As a father, I know I do this. I complain that my kids do not go to sleep on time much more than I express gratitude for being blessed with healthy, happy kids.
Sometimes we need a little push to remind us of our blessings.
That is the lesson of a beautiful Yiddish story about a man who lived in a one-room hut with his mother, his wife, and six children. The hut, as we can imagine, was filled with crying and quarreling. It was noisy and hard to live. One day, when he felt he couldn’t take it any more, the man went to his rabbi.
“Rabbi,” he said, “things are bad and getting worse. I live in a one-room house with my mother, wife and six children. It is too crowded and noisy. Help me find some peace, Rabbi, I’ll do whatever you say.”
The rabbi thought for a moment. “Do you have a chicken? he asked.” “Yes, of course I do,” the man replied. “Good,” said the Rabbi, “take the chicken and bring it into your home.” “Well, okay,” said the man, though he was a bit surprised.
Imagine what the house sounded like now. In addition to the man, his mother, his wife and six children, there was a chicken clucking incessantly. Frustrated, the man returned to the Rabbi. “Rabbi, I did what you said, and it’s much worse than before. Help me please.”
“Tell me,” the rabbi asked, “do have a goat?” “Yes, I do,” the man replied. “Excellent,” said the rabbi. “Go home and bring him in to live with you.” A couple of days later, life in the hut was even worse. There was crying, quarreling, clucking, and a goat pushing and butting everyone with its horns.
The man returned to the rabbi. To his shock, the rabbi then instructed him to bring his cow into the hut. This Rabbi must be crazy, the man thought. But he did as he was instructed. The house became an utter chaos.
The End of the World
When he returned to the rabbi for the fourth time, the man screamed, “Help me rabbi, the end of the world has come. There is no room in my house even to breathe.” The rabbi listened and said, “Go home now, my friend, and let the animals out of your hut.” The man rushed home and did so.
That night was the sweetest and most relaxing night he ever had. Every member of the family slept comfortably and peacefully. When he returned to the rabbi, the man said “Rabbi, you have made life sweet for me. With just my family in the hut, it’s so quiet, so roomy, so peaceful…What a blessing.”
What a blessing. When we feel overwhelmed, we can gain perspective by counting the blessings we enjoy each and every day.
This post was originally published on Rabbi Evan’s blog. He believes in uncovering the hidden treasure of the Old Testament and Jewish wisdom to enrich the lives of Christians. You can learn more in his book, Words of Wisdom: From the Torah to Today.