Now, the VOA Learning English program Words and Their Stories.
There are certain times of the year when we stop and think about all the things that make us happy or bring us joy. Some people even make a list of these things. In English, we have a saying for this: to count your blessings.
When we count our blessings, we note all the wonderful things in our lives. This helps us to appreciate how good life is.
Thanksgiving is a time when many Americans count their blessings. The United States observes this holiday on the fourth Thursday in November.
Counting your blessings is important. It shows that you are grateful. Gratitude is a feeling of appreciation or thanks. When people count their blessings, they can say it like this: "I am thankful for my family. I am thankful for my friends. I am thankful for my health."
It is better to be grateful for our blessings than to take them for granted. When we take something for granted, we do not appreciate it. Sometimes we are not appreciative of our good fortune and blessings until they are gone.
But now, let's take a step back. What exactly is a blessing?
In English, the word “blessing” has at least two meanings. As we said, a blessing is something that brings you happiness or helps you. To religious people, a blessing is approval and help from a higher source -- God.
A blessing can also be a sign of approval. It gives you permission to do something. For example, a traditional marriage custom involves a blessing. If a young man wants to marry a young woman, he may want to first get her family’s blessing.
Give thanks for small blessings
Now, when we want to show our recognition of all the little things that prove helpful, we sometimes say “give thanks for small blessings.” We often say this expression in the middle of a troubling or difficult time.
So, let’s say a friend of yours is angry about a flat tire on his car. But then he stops and thinks for a minute and says, “Well, at least I have a car. I should count myself lucky and give thanks for small blessings.”
Now, not all blessings are simple and easy to recognize. Some are more complex than others. That brings us to the expression "mixed blessing."
A mixed blessing is something that is both good and bad. For example, being really beautiful can be a mixed blessing. On one hand, you look great and may be treated really well by some people. On the other hand, you look great and may be treated badly by other people. So, when we use this expression, we often use the terms “on one hand” and “on the other hand.”
Blessing in disguise
Here is another blessing expression. It is a little more complicated: a blessing in disguise.
First of all, a disguise hides something that you do not want seen or noticed. For example, a secret agent might wear a disguise to hide her identity. Or a bottle of perfume might disguise an unpleasant smell.
So, a blessing in disguise is a bad event or situation. But the outcome or result is actually good.
Here’s how to use the expression blessing in disguise.
Hey, how’s everything going? I haven’t seen you in a while.
Things are great! For starters, I got fired last month.
And that’s all the time we have this week for Words and Their Stories.
Now it's time for you to "count your blessings." What are you thankful for? You can tell us in the Comments Section.
Until next time ... I’m Anna Matteo.
When I am worried and I can't sleep
I count my blessings instead of sheep
And I fall asleep counting my blessings...
Anna Matteo wrote this story for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor. The song at the end is "Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep) sung by Krista Branch.
Words in This Story
appreciate – v. to understand the worth or importance of (something or someone) : to admire and value (something or someone) : to be grateful for (something)
grateful – adj. feeling or showing thanks : feeling or showing thanks to someone for some helpful act
gratitude – n. the state of being grateful
take them for granted – expression to never think about something because you believe it will always be available or stay exactly the same
source – n. a cause or starting point
tire – n. a rubber cushion that usually contains compressed air and fits around a wheel (as of an automobile
perfume – n. a substance that emits a pleasant odor
reunion – n. an organized gathering of people who have not been together for some time
fired – adj. dismissed from a job