Count Your Blessings

Count Your Blessings – Michael Hingson and Roselle

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.  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 they aren’t sleeping. 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 2019.

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 passed on June 26, 2011. As she grew older she didn’t move around as much as she used to do and had a lot of back pains.  In March 2010 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.  Afterward, she didn’t bounce around like a puppy, but she became more engaging and clearly lost most of the back pain.  The memory of 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 in early October of this year.

In 2017 I was contacted by an organization to speak at an annual event on Diversity and Inclusion for a school district. Unfortunately, just before the talk was to take place the event had to be canceled due to the event location needing to undergo major structural modifications. Just this past October the event finally took place and I spoke.

I was asked to tell my World Trade Center story and to discuss issues surrounding the education and employment of students with disabilities. My job was to motivate the 800 attendees from schools throughout Northern California. For an hour I shared about 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 my current guide dog Alamo. We also sold many copies of my #1 NY Times Bestselling book, Thunder Dog. I was told that my story had made the desired impact of lifting spirits and helping everyone to understand more about how they could have a positive impact on the lives of the students they teach.  It is a blessing to encourage others and share a message of hope.

Blessing 3 Survival – Due to some circumstances in my life, a vacation we planned right after the October speech had to be canceled. Originally my wife, Karen, and I planned to leave the October venue and drive to San Rafael, CA where we planned a long awaited week visiting friends and visiting old haunts we left behind when we moved to Southern California in July, 2014. On October 1, literally an hour before we were to leave home I was notified by Aira, my employer at the time, that because of some restructuring my job had been eliminated. Immediately, we went into financial survival mode and canceled our vacation. We drove to Monterey where I was to speak. While returning home on Friday we were involved in a serious auto accident. We were not injured, but our wheelchair accessible van was totaled. With the help of a great State Farm insurance agent, Katie Chase, her colleague, Katie Avina, and a wonderful State Farm staff we once again are mobile with a replacement converted vehicle that Karen can drive from her chair. Karen, Alamo and I are blessed to be alive, home and doing well.

Blessing 4   “Thunder Dog” – This #1 NY Times Bestselling book continues to sell well. I am so blessed that I still get many letters and emails from readers informing me of how much they enjoyed the book and  telling me of how much they have learned about Blind people and blindness. I also continue to see sales of our second book, “Running With Roselle which Jeanette Hanscome and I wrote to tell Roselle’s and my stories growing up, meeting and living through September 11. You can order both books by visiting www.amazon.com and searching for these titles.

Blessing 5   Aira – While my employment with the company has ended I am blessed both by the product which offers so much for any blind person who seeks visual information otherwise unavailable to us, but I am also blessed by a tremendous letter of recommendation written on my behalf by Aira’s cofounder, Suman Kanuganti. I will share this letter elsewhere in this newsletter.

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 on my blog page.  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. Of course, I would count it as a blessing should you invite me to speak at any upcoming event.

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