첥Ƶ

Skip to content

Breaking 첥Ƶ

SUBSCRIBER ONLY

Opinion |
A challenge from Bill White: Take a moment to think about moments you felt blessed

Bill White and his first golden retriever, Penny. A column Bill wrote after Penny died spurred hundreds of emails and phones calls in the days and weeks afterward with people sharing stories of their own beloved pets. (Contributed photo)
Bill White and his first golden retriever, Penny. A column Bill wrote after Penny died spurred hundreds of emails and phones calls in the days and weeks afterward with people sharing stories of their own beloved pets. (Contributed photo)
Bill White

A Facebook memory popped up for me last week, and it took me back to some very dark days.

It was from March 20, 2020, and my column that day compared two tragedies, one almost 19 years before and the other just unfolding. I remembered the way we — and our national leaders — were able to comfort one another in the wake of 9/11, and I lamented the isolation and lack of leadership we were experiencing as the COVID pandemic unfolded.

My conclusion was that we all desperately needed to look for ways to connect with one another, even if social distancing made that more challenging.

I can’t say I’m feeling all that upbeat about the situation we’re in these days as we contemplate the prospect of another several months — if not an unthinkable four more years — with Donald Trump dominating the news headlines; lament international tragedies in Ukraine and the Middle East; and wonder whether our dysfunctional Congress will ever stop pandering to its most extreme constituents and start governing.

But compared with four years ago and the even darker days that followed, things look pretty darned rosy. It’s a low bar, I know, but I’ll take it.

Before I elaborate, I’ll acknowledge that some of you may be looking for me to lay out more of your favorite pet peeves. I promise I’ll return soon to share more of your observations about terrible drivers, lazy shoppers, bad grammar and other annoyances. I’ve gotten a great response to those stories, not just from Morning 첥Ƶ readers but from readers of other newspapers where my first pet peeve column appeared.

Still, after rereading that 2020 column and with spring blooming around us, I thought it might be nice to focus instead this week on blessings. I have lots. A great family close by. Good health. Comfortable retirement. Old and new friends. So many more.

I would suggest that we don’t spend nearly enough time thinking about our blessings. One of my spiritual disciplines has become reviewing good things from each day just before I go to sleep, and I surprise myself sometimes.

We’re asking people in our church to share their God Stories or God Winks, times when a higher power seemed to take the wheel in your lives — putting the right words in your mouth, putting you in just the right place at the right time, creating pleasant surprises, if not miracles, large and small.

I have several of those. Here’s one.

When our first golden retriever, Penny, was euthanized, with me by her side, I was so devastated that I sat in my car afterward sobbing, unable to drive for several minutes. I ended up dealing with my grief in the way that always has suited me best, by writing about it. The words just poured out of me, with tears rolling down my cheeks.

I wasn’t sure I would actually use it in the newspaper, but I finally decided to go ahead, hoping some people would be able to relate with what our family was going through.

But I never could have imagined the reaction. The morning my column ran, I arrived at work to find hundreds of emails and phones calls waiting for me. Some of the people who called me could barely speak because they were sobbing so hard. Others shared wonderful stories about their own dogs, alternately leaving me laughing or crying. Many of them told me that when they finished reading, they dropped to their knees to hug their pets. One call came from a teachers’ lounge full of emotional readers.

In the days and weeks that followed, I received many more calls, emails, sympathy cards, poems, almost all invoking the name of a dog or cat that this person still was mourning — in some cases for years — or dreaded mourning in the future. As one of my follow-up articles, I considered running all those pet names until I realized they would never fit in one column.

Some people saved that article to help them through future grieving. Decades later, I still was hearing from people, not just from the Lehigh Valley, but around the country, asking me to send them a copy or telling me it still was on their refrigerator or tucked away somewhere else where they could find it.

I’ve never had that kind of response, before or since. My words — intended mostly just to help me begin healing — connected me with all those people in the most emotional kind of way, a connection that continues in some cases to this day. For me, at least, it felt like a little miracle. And a blessing.

Here’s a challenge, and it doesn’t require any religious convictions. I’ll ask you to contemplate moments in your life when you found yourself blessed in some unexpected way. My guess is that most of you have one or more great stories to share about times you found yourself happily dazed by unexpected events. Thinking back on them feels good, even in dark times.

Pet peeves are fun, and I love hearing yours. But let’s leave room for counting our blessings, too.

Bill White can be reached at whitebil1974@gmail.com. His X handle is whitebil.

More in Opinion