BEUSCHEL: Count your blessings

Nov 17, 2011


Of course, there is the typical range of things to be thankful for — like family, friends, good health, etc. But I would rather venture into thankfulness for things intangible; things that are not so readily seen or in our consciousness.

My thoughts about this came from a comment made by a speaker at a conference I attended a few weeks ago. The speaker was addressing a room of educators. He felt that we are damaging students by using the “Jesse James” approach — we steal their (students’) struggle. 

Hmmmm? He felt that, through the “bogus self-esteem” movement — as he labeled it — we have artificially inflated children’s self-esteem by not allowing them to struggle through their tasks, rather than stepping in and stealing it from them. 

Wow! Talk about food for thought! I’ve been chewing on this now for several weeks and it has brought me to recognize some rather intangible things I can be thankful for.

First of all, I am thankful that my parents and their parents modeled how to struggle and take on a challenge no matter how hard.

My grandfather and his siblings arrived in this country without their parents. Their father had died an early death from pneumonia and their mother remained behind in the old country, sending her children one by one to the United States. Without a parent to comfort him or the language of the country he was coming to, my grandfather with an eighth-grade education struggled his way across the country, ending up in Chicago as a successful baker and bakery shop owner.

Likewise, his various siblings all found their way and became self-sufficient. Their self-esteem was a result of struggle and self-determination. 

My parents married prior to World War II and were separated for two years during the war. The only thing they had when they got married was their love and their jobs. They struggled to move our family from the “city” out to the ”suburbs.” There were many years when both my parents were working full-time and my dad was working a full-time job and two part-time jobs. Doing for our family was their goal. When our time came, my brother and I followed in their footsteps.

I am thankful for having been given this lesson in struggling.

The second thing I am thankful for is the feeling of being loved.

My childhood provided me with the essential unconditional love of my parents. There were family get-togethers with my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. There were good neighbors and childhood friends and their families. I had a sense of belonging to something that was bigger than myself, and knowing that these people cared about me and my family.

Today, as I continue to have family, friends and a community to surround me, I am thankful for being given the gift of love.

The third thing I am thankful for is knowing what freedom feels like by being born in a country whose foundation is freedom; freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom to pursue the American dream. How different would my life be if it were not for the experiences I have had based on these freedoms?

Being able to speak without fear of reprisal, and be educated in both public and parochial schools, has contributed to who I am today. Being able to choose what I want my life to be like and what careers I want to pursue comes from this experience called freedom. To be free to travel within and outside of my country, so that I might see the world, has allowed me know the world beyond my country’s shorelines. 

These freedoms were certainly worth the pursuit of the Pilgrims and all those immigrants — including my grandparents, who followed them looking for a better life.

This brings me full-circle to the concept of struggling. If our forefathers had not been able to struggle their way to this country, we would not be here today. Their struggle didn’t end when they reached the shores of this continent.

Every step of our United States’ history contains an element of struggle that allowed our country to move forward. Things did not always work out the way they were planned, nor were all the right decisions made along the way. We struggle to this day to make things better for our country, and our freedoms allow for us to openly struggle to this end. It is a struggle to maintain a democracy and I feel it is well worth it.

I would add one thing to this concept of struggling — and that is a goal. It is not just the ability to struggle, but to struggle toward a goal. I see people lost in the struggle because they have not consciously decided on a goal. Without the goal in mind, it’s not possible to know when you have arrived at your destination.

The Pilgrims found their destination and climbed ashore. For that I am most thankful!

— By Janet Beuschel, Tribune community columnist


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