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Don’t improve you, appreciate you - 1/6/2017

The year 2017 has just begun, and I wonder: What kind of year is it going to be for all of you? One that starts off with, “This year, I resolve to stop drinking, stop smoking, exercise, eat healthier, get organized, work more diligently, pay more attention to my kids and make more time for the people in my life that I’ve neglected?”

I could go on at length, but those are the typical New Year’s resolutions that most people make. Sad to say, however, most of them don’t come to fruition. After only a short bit of time, your visits to the gym, diets and well-meaning intensions fizzle out. Other things take precedence, and because the flesh is weak, you succumb to what you perceive to be more demanding or enjoyable activities. What would you say about putting an end to this yearly ritual by forgetting about all the good you intend to do and, instead, selfishly direct your attention to you? Not on the outside, but on the inside, to the part of you most people avoid looking at.

If you agree, in the year 2017, I want you to look at yourself, not in a kind or ugly mirror, but a realistic one. If you don’t know what a “kind” or “ugly” mirror is, it’s one that you look into and perceive yourself as stronger, thinner, younger and more successful, or ugly, pudgy, unlovable and more a failure than you really are.

The mirror’s purpose, as crazy as it may sound, is to aid you to lie to yourself and to create a more positive or negative image of self than is real. It’s probably been your way of coping since childhood, but you can change coping techniques.

The first step is to get rid of that mirror. Then, look at your own body, from the tip of your toes to the top of your head. No matter your size or shape, take a moment to appreciate what a magnificent piece of machinery you are.

Your body truly is amazing. It can move, feel, see, smell and hear, and that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Inside of you is an entire chemical plant that’s capable of carrying out a myriad of processes that enables your body to function very well physically. The problem, however, is that you come to expect that 100 percent of the time, which sadly isn’t always the case. Think about it. If you had a car as old as many of you, how many batteries would you have replaced by now? How many brake pads would you have worn out; how many tire changes, carburetor cleanouts, windshield wipers and new suspension system, would you have had to buy?

On the other hand, I’d have you try to recall how many times it safely carried you to your chosen destination, and how fortunate you are to have lived during a time when so many remarkable ways of dealing with this piece of machinery have been developed. There are specialists who can replace hips, knees and shoulders. They can repair clogged chemical lines, and even are able to repair malfunctions in the brain.

After thinking about it, you should be awed by the fact that you’ve been privileged to live as long as each of you have, to have had the experiences and memories you possess, and that you’re still able to read this text.

I could go on at length about the marvels of just your body, but suffice to say, you need to be extremely thankful for the loan of your body, for the time you’ve had the good fortune to spend in this world and the opportunity you’ve had to learn, love and live during that time.

Unfortunately, few of you will come to that realization. Instead, you’ll focus on improving you, changing you and creating a better you. You’ll complain when the electricity goes off. You’ll be distraught when the water heater doesn’t function or the A/C isn’t working, and you’ll be angry because there are potholes in the roads, and the mail doesn’t come as regularly as it used to.

But not me, because I’ve been very lucky to have traveled throughout the world. My wife and I have had the privilege of being on every continent, but we’ve never stayed in five-star hotels or in plush palaces. Quite the contrary, we’ve been to many places where there were few or no amenities, stayed in the homes of people where the language and the customs were totally foreign to us and eaten food, at least I have; Harriet always has her stash of peanut butter sandwiches, that many persons would find far from palatable.

We’ve watched people carry buckets of water, barefooted, down gravel roads from muddy lakes as far as 5 miles away and seen them live in huts that we probably wouldn’t house our pets in. Conversely, almost every one of you reading this article has a stream running through your home of clear fresh water, that’s palatable, free of dirt or foreign bodies, and available whenever you turn the faucet on. Most of you have artificial suns that light your homes, energy that cools the air and air-conditioned vehicles that carry you wherever we want to go. Think of the marvel of all that, of how much you have, as opposed to what you’re lacking. And, this year, before you attempt to improve or fix you, take the time and energy to say: “Thank you, G-d, for everything I have and for everything that I’ve been given the opportunity to work for, and enjoy.”

Essentially, what I’m saying is, instead of focusing on that part of your chemical plant that doesn’t work or the difficult times you’ve had, turn your attention toward what you do have and on the positives that exist in your life. Appreciate who you are on the inside and what you have on the outside.

Rather than focusing on what’s missing or broken in you and creating a world that’s dark and dysfunctional, do the opposite. Appreciate and accept what’s positive in your life. Recognize how lucky and fortunate you are to be who you are, and to possess what you do, because the person you are now, and how much you value him or her, will determine how positive or negative your life will be in 2017 and all the years to follow.

Happy New Year to all of you.

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