COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS
By Michael Hingson
I am a collector of classic radio shows from the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. If you are not familiar with the genre, it’s the entertainment that was in wide use before the invention of television. Old-time radio is especially fun because it forces you to use your imagination unlike television which usually spells out everything. I also enjoy old movies, especially at Christmas time.
Last week I listened to a radio dramatization of Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas,” inspiring me to seek out the movie version which played on American Movie Classics. In one scene, Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney cannot sleep and find themselves alone together in the middle of the night talking about their reasons why. Bing tells Rosemary that his way to fall asleep is to count his blessings instead of sheep, and then as happens in these movies he sings a song to her entitled “Count your Blessings.”
Whether or not you count blessings, sheep, or use some other method to fall asleep, this is a really good time of the year to look back at the accomplishments, challenges, good things, and not-so-good things which this year held, and consider how they may have helped us grow and move forward. I prefer to think of these things as blessings and would like to share a few of my blessings from 2010.
Blessing 1 Roselle – As some of you may know, Roselle is the guide dog that was with me during my escape from Tower One of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Roselle is now almost 13 years old. She doesn’t move around as much as she used to and has had a lot of back pain this year. In March, I had the honor of delivering the keynote speech at the American Animal Hospital Association Convention in Long Beach, California. At the end of the speech, I introduced Roselle to the audience to a standing ovation. While there, I met an incredibly kind woman, a veterinarian, who attended one of my three workshops and decided to sit with Roselle while I spoke. She observed that Roselle had quite a bit of back pain and offer to do an adjustment for her. Later, I found out that this doctor was one of the nation’s foremost experts on pain management for dogs. After the adjustment, Roselle was indeed better, almost immediately returning to a more normal gait.
At the suggestion of this wonderful doctor, we took Roselle to her veterinarian who specializes in both Western and less traditional Eastern medical techniques such as acupuncture. Over the next several months, she received acupuncture treatments as well as some herbal supplements for her diet. She is not bouncing around like a puppy, but she once again is very engaging and clearly does not have the back pain anymore. We are confident that she will be with us for some time to come. Roselle constantly teaches me about perseverance and how strength ensues from a positive attitude. That is a great blessing by any standard.
Blessing 2 Encouraging Others Through Speaking – Throughout the year, I have had the honor and pleasure of speaking before many different groups, companies and associations, some like the one mentioned above have been attended by over 1,000 people. One speaking engagement especially stands out in my mind – a speech that I gave only two weeks ago.
Early in December I was contacted by the Vice Principal of a nearby school who invited me to help motivate his staff. It seemed that the school had its share of difficulties over the past several years including the murder of a student two and a half years ago and the recent death of another student caused by a drunk driver. The staff, the principal said, was down in the dumps because of these events, the economy, and other school-related issues.
I cannot recall ever being asked to speak in such a challenging environment and agreed to do what I could. The staff was not told in advance about me and my experiences concerning the World Trade Center. Even during my introduction, the staff was not alerted to what was coming. I began the process of engaging the audience by using both humor and a discussion of blindness and the capabilities and challenges experienced by blind people. This lead up to dropping the bombshell: that I was a survivor of the WTC terrorist attacks. You could have heard a pin drop. Clearly I was delivering a speech this audience had not expected. For the next 50 minutes I shared about other life challenges I had faced, from being told many years ago that I could not purchase life insurance because I was blind, to how I used every skill I possessed to escape from the collapsing Tower on 9-11.
Afterwards, people stayed around for fifteen minutes just to talk and to meet Roselle who accompanied me as a special surprise. I was told that my story had made the desired impact of lifting the staff’s spirits. It is a blessing to encourage others and share a message of hope.
Blessing 3 Race for Independence – In October of 2001, Dr. Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind challenged U. S. industry and America’s universities to participate in developing a vehicle that blind people could drive. Two years ago Virginia Tech accepted the challenge. In various ways I have been participating in the programs leading to the development of a car that can be driven by a blind person. On January 29, 2011, prior to the commencement of the race, history is being made at the Rolex 400 Race at the Daytona Raceway. The world will see a blind person independently drive a car around the race track for the first time, in public. We are not ready to drive at nearly 200 MPH just yet, but to think that in my lifetime a blind person will drive a car is a tremendous blessing and an incredible leap forward for blind and sighted people alike. The vehicle avoidance technology utilized in this revolutionary vehicle will benefit all drivers in the years to come.
Blessing 4 “Thunder Dog” – Earlier this year, I was contacted by Susy Flory, an author who was writing a book called “Dog Tales” which would tell stories about many unusual and heroic dogs including Roselle. As we talked she expressed an interest in helping me write our story as its own book. She introduced me to Chip MacGregor, the top literary agent in the country. Together with Chip’s help, Susy and I have are pleased to inform you that our new book, “Thunder Dog,” will be available next summer. Read about it and pre-order it on my web-site, www.michaelhingson.com. By pre-ordering the book, you send a powerful message to the publisher, Thomas Nelson Publishers, that there is considerable interest in this story. Your support will also help the publisher gain distribution of the book to major book selling outlets. You also can pre-order by visiting www.amazon.com and searching for the title “Thunder Dog.” This book has to be the most incredible blessing for me in 2010. I invite you all to share it with me.
Now you know my most memorable blessings of this past year. What are yours? I invite you to visit www.michaelhingson.com and share your blessings and thoughts, personally and specifically. We all have much to be thankful for even through challenges and hardships and I am sure others would be interested in ways you have moved forward this year. If you do not wish your comments to be made public on the web site just say so and your preference will be respected. Let’s take a moment to remember our blessings as we go into and through 2011. Be positive and feel blessed. Who knows, you may even sleep better.