Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

September 10, 2006


Despite our problems we need to keep counting our blessings


          The world seems increasingly violent. Every day the news is mostly bad. There is no end to the sordid accounts of murder, rape, robbery, and child molestation. No wonder we keep hearing people say, “I have stopped watching the news; it is too depressing.”

          Often I feel the same way. Pessimism knocks on my door and asks if he can stay awhile. I am tempted to let him in. But I hear my friend Optimism say, “If you let him in, I am leaving.”

          Then I realize once again that I cannot afford to let Pessimism spend even one night with me. He could quickly ruin a friendship that has lasted a lifetime. Optimism and I have been good friends almost 75 years.

          One thing that helps me find the will power to turn Pessimism away is to count my blessings. That may sound simplistic but it works for me. When I start looking for them, I find blessings everywhere.

          I guess you might call them ordinary blessings – little things that other people may not even notice yet they are important to me. Blessings don’t have to be spectacular or expensive, just things that give me joy or make me glad to be alive. Let me share what I mean.

          A few weeks ago I chanced to meet a man who became a Christian while I was his pastor. We became good friends; then I retired and moved away. When we greeted each other, I told him how good it was to see him and to hear of his growth in grace.

          His response was an unexpected blessing. “I have wanted for a long time to thank you for the way you loved me into the faith,” he said warmly. I was speechless. I wanted to drop to my knees and thank God for such a rare moment of sheer joy. Few things in life are greater blessings than knowing that, despite your flaws, God has used you to help someone else fall in love with Jesus.

          But less you think my blessings are all “spiritual,” let me share one that is more down-to-earth. It has to do with football, one of my favorite things. Earlier this year a senior at Edgewood Academy in Elmore was killed in a highway accident. Bryan Valliere was fine young man and a good athlete.

          I did not know Bryan but I admired him. I discovered that he had gone out of his way to befriend and mentor my grandson, Jake, an eight-grader at the same school. Jake was shaken by Bryan’s death. He had lost the friendship of an upperclassman who had taken an interest in him while they were teammates on the football team.  

          Later Jake was stunned to learn how much Bryan had thought of him. For his high school annual Bryan had written in his “Last Will and Testament” that he was willing his football jersey number 79 to Jake. Jake could hardly believe it.

          This fall Jake is playing on the Junior Varsity Team as a ninth-grader at Wetumpka High School. They beat Chilton County High School 14-0 last Tuesday night. Jake played offensive right tackle, the same position I once played for the Wetumpka Indians.

          The crowd in the stands was small, mostly parents and family members of the players and cheer leaders. But I was there, cheering and clapping for Jake and his friends. Nobody in the crowd had a clue as to the blessing that was mine Tuesday night.

          You see, Jake was wearing number 79, Bryan’s old number. And 79 was also my number when I played on the same football field 57 years ago. The joy I felt was indescribable as I counted yet one more blessing.

          As we grow older the body plays out on us – and the mind also. I don’t know how it will be for me. But I can hope. And I hope my mind will stay with me to the end so that with my last breath I will be counting my blessings. Even the most ordinary ones keep Optimism alive. + + + +