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Gratitude and Counting your Blessings

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

G.K. Chesterton once wrote, “here ends another day, during which I have had eyes, ears, hands and the great world around me. Tomorrow begins another day. Why am I allowed two?” The shortest way to happiness that I know is gratitude, counting your blessings.


This country now sits around the table for Christmas, which is as good a time as any to recall our blessings. Even in this dark winter, even in bad economic times, there is so much to be grateful for that we cannot even count it.


I know a lot of parents will be hugging their children a little tighter after the Newtown shooting. But really this appreciation should not be limited to our children, but to all people. All are irreplaceable; all are contingent, and passing away.


If you want to be miserable, think of yourself as entitled to what you have. Then you will hate and blame anyone and anything that takes anything away. Inevitably, someone or something will take everything away, and you will have nothing but bitterness and resentment to show for it.


But if you want to be happy, think of everything as an unearned gift because, most importantly, that’s what it is. Did those children die at Sandy Hook because they were worse than the rest of us? Of course not. Do we have good things here in America while children starve in the Sudan because God loves us more than He loves them? Of course not. You do not have the blessings you have, which are more than you can count, because you deserve them: you don’t. And the sooner you admit that, the sooner you can really enjoy them.


The Newtown shooting was terrible, despicable, and evil. But good can come out of tragedy if we take the right lessons from it. If it gives us perspective, then that is a good; it doesn’t make up for the loss, but it is a good nonetheless. If we take the wrong lesson from it, then that is yet another evil.

There are many cries in the wilderness for more stringent gun control laws. However, the application of such laws would not have prevented this massacre. The guns used were perfectly legal and the cold blooded murderer had no criminal record: even if you had removed from the streets all criminals and all illegal guns, the incident would have still occurred.

The principal and many of the teachers were incredibly heroic in their attempts to physically disarm the shooter and save the children. If they had been trained for physical combat or had access to appropriate weapons which they had been trained to use, the outcome would have been different. In some schools there are armed guards and policeman already, albeit unfortunately not enough for every school.

Lanza was mentally ill, but he did not purchase the weapons; his mother did, and he stole them. Further, Connecticut already bans assault weapons. So these hasty, knee-jerk proposals would have done nothing to prevent this crime. Furthermore, Lanza was already receiving mental health treatment and medication before the attacks.

Mass murders, as distinguished from smaller incidents, are all the same in one regard: they pit one armed man against many unarmed people. How did the Newtown shooting end? When Lanza saw the police, he killed himself. It was in direct response to force that the shooting ended.

Stupid gun laws don’t become smart because an incident so horrifying and unlikely as the Newtown shooting happened. These suggestions are the wrong lesson to take from this harrowing incident. The right lesson? Those parents hugging their children—and not just their children but their spouses, their friends, their parents—even tighter.

On this Christmas, I will leave you with the words of the reason for this season, the Son of God and Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ: “Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.”

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