Did you know that the collective noun for unicorns is blessing? A blessing of unicorns sounds lovely. I don’t know what the collective noun for blessings is, so I made one up: a circle of blessings. If you don’t understand why I chose as I did, keep reading.

What is a blessing? Is it approval or permission from someone more powerful than you? Is it a present or a benefit? Is it some object or event you very much want?

Maybe.

Blessings can be physical things, but they don’t have to be. And when they are, it is the fact that we receive more from them than just a physical thing that makes them blessings. Examples might be the medicine that saves your life or the life of someone you love, a safe place when you have been in danger, a pet’s comfort at the end of a hard day.

Blessings help us heal and grow and get closer to Spirit in a way that is mysterious. By “mysterious” I mean that it doesn’t just happen on a physical level, and it might be hard, or even impossible, to explain.

It’s easier to receive the blessings that want to come to us if we take time to notice and pay attention. A blessing could be seeing Jupiter or Venus come out at sunset, watching young birds learn to fly from the branch of a bush to a bird feeder to get sunflower seeds, teaching something you love to a friend, letting a person you trust give you a back rub.

Blessings are also a two-way street: You cannot give a blessing without receiving one, and vice versa, because to connect authentically with another part of creation — person, bird, cow, flower, planet, landscape — is the blessing that underlies all blessings. And the emotion, the quality that makes all this blessing possible is gratitude. If I feel entitled to the medical treatment that saves my life, I may be relieved, but my lack of gratitude will make it hard for me to receive my restored life as a blessing. What a missed opportunity!

To sit in a hospital room with a stranger and simply be present while she talks about whatever is on her mind is a huge blessing. If the patient appreciates the company and the chance to talk without self-censorship, I am deeply honored to be trusted and allowed into her world for a while, and moved by the simple human connection. Spirit is present there.

To serve a meal to someone who lives on the street is a blessing, as it reminds me that the difference in our appearance and our circumstances is much smaller than our common humanity, symbolized by the need for food and warmth and human companionship. Spirit is present there also.

Blessings can be as simple as a look, a touch, as deep as the sense of oneness with creation I experience in a beautiful landscape or watching the sunrise. They can be as silent as communing with a loved one in a cemetery or as boisterous as an airport reunion.

A blessing, I suppose, is any encounter with creation where the spark of Spirit passes from one to another, no matter who the giver(s) and receiver(s) may be. And once received, they are ours forever.

This week, I wish you a circle of blessings.

Republican Journal Editor Sarah E. Reynolds is a longtime employee of Courier Publications.

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