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Robert L. Heichberger: Count your blessings, not your difficulties

Many years ago, as a young farm boy in the sun-kissed Boston Hills, I would gaze toward the predawn eastern horizon overlooking the spectacular rolling hills of Colden. A thin, silvery lining creased the horizon as the forerunner to a beautiful sunrise. What a spectacular sight to behold. And then, parenthetically, the same silvery lining would appear nearing the evening dusk. As one gazed toward the western sky, with the reflecting shimmering waters of Lake Erie in the far distance, the same silvery lining creased the horizon. Again, what a monumental sight to behold.

In the days of my youth, when things just did not seem to be going well, the old-timers, including my Mom, would often say, “Robert, keep looking for the silver lining. You will discover it.”

“Silver lining?” I would ask. “What silver lining?” There were times when I was not chosen to be on the baseball team, or I did not do as well as I could on a spelling test, or I was not included in a particular game at school. Where was the silver lining in all of that?

But then, on the brighter side, I remember after a week of grueling final exams, our little school would have a full-day picnic at Chestnut Ridge Park each June. Slides, swings and a ball game – wow, what a day of fun and food.

I remember as a young farm boy, at the end of a warm day working in the fields, our family enjoying a slice of cool watermelon as the sun sank in the sky. Other times, after finishing harvesting, our family would enjoy a glass of cool homemade root beer and gaze at the beautiful sunset. I wondered if this was the “silver lining” to which Mom referred.

As I grew older, I learned the need to set priorities as to what is really important and what is less important. I began to focus on my priorities, and take things in stride. I found I needed to make decisions, not excuses, and live one moment at a time. I began to count my blessings, not my difficulties, and let go of those things distracting me. I began to look for lessons in the obstacles I encountered.

There were times I asked for help from others. I try to give to others as much, if not more, than what I have taken. I concerned myself with being the best I could be at that moment, for that moment lives continuously with you. I learned to laugh at humor, cry when I needed to and always stay true to my values.

And so, life moved on. My wife and I were blessed to have our own family. We would often refer to that “silver lining” when talking with our daughter and son. When things were not going exactly as they wished, we would remark, “Be patient and wait for the silver lining. You will know it when you see it.” And sure enough, there were any number of silver linings in their lives, and thereby, in ours as well.

And now, in our golden years, a great part of that silver lining is our six grandchildren; each one adds a very special silver brilliance. Adding luster to that brilliance are the thousands of students with whom I have worked over these many years, as well as hundreds of our colleagues and friends.

You know, each day is a special gift. Every morning, we are handed 24 golden hours, with a silver lining where there is no sunset of our fondest of memories. What a priceless treasure! Mom knew what she was talking about when she said, “Keep looking for the silver lining. You will discover it.”