I read a story this morning about a young woman from Sierra Leone that I cannot get out of my mind. Her name is Mariama, and she spent her entire childhood in this war-torn place. As a girl, she witnessed incredible, horrible violence including the brutal murders of her own parents and siblings. She spent her teenage years fleeing and hiding from the rebels who would destroy her. She recalls laying herself down to sleep at night, in unfamiliar places, thanking her God that she was still alive. She prayed that she would be alive in the morning. She didn't pray for food, because she knew she could somehow find food if she was alive.
During this time of homelessness, Mariama was given a humanitarian kit by missionaries of the church I belong to (yes, missionaries just like Iver). This kit was precious to her and represented the hope that she had to survive. She shared that hope with others who were in the same situation, and had an incredible comforting influence on many people. Several years later she was called to serve a mission herself in the United States, was able to leave her country behind, and start a bright, new life for herself. Mariama made sure to visit the place where that precious humanitarian kit was made, and wept in gratitude when she entered the doors.
Mariama now tours our country, telling her story, and encouraging others to engage in humanitarian causes, as a way of showing gratitude for an abundance of blessings.
I feel inspired by her story. And I always feel drawn to people around me who see the good in their lives. Who are truly grateful for all that they have been given, and use that gratitude to bless the lives of others. I really want to be one of those people. I do strive for it.
When I was a young mother, overwhelmed with responsibility for my crazy toddler-creatures, struggling with an illness that had not yet been diagnosed as bipolar disorder, stuck on the side of a mountain without transportation, I often wallowed in discouragement. I saw lots of clouds, but very little sunshine. A woman I looked up to and respected shared something simple with me, that made a remarkable difference in my life. Christel told me about her "count-your-blessings-walks." She would take a walk, and with every step would name a blessing in her life. When I heard this, I smiled, knowing in my mind that there was no way I had so many blessings. I continued to think that, as I walked down our long, dirt driveway each day to the mailbox. One day, sometime later, I decided to try it. With each step I named a blessing: Iver's adorable curls; Shakira's sweet, happy disposition; Corbin's tender kisses....I got to the mailbox having blessings backed up in my brain as fast as they could come!! I started to make this a habit, and noticed my outlook beginning to change.
Eighteen years later, I know I could walk to the ends of the earth and back, never naming a blessing twice. How extraordinary is that? Though things are a struggle for me right now, there are beams of sun through the clouds. For the abundance of blessings I have been given, I am crazy thankful.