When You Wish


I found happiness by replacing wishful thinking with thankful prayer.

It started innocently enough. Like most other children, I would sit by the window, look out at the stars, and repeat the chant:

“Star light, star bright
First star I see tonight.
I wish I may, I wish I might
Have the wish I wish tonight.”

Then I would close my eyes and make my wish. I wished for everything my childish mind could dream of: a pony, a puppy, the eradication of spinach, a fairy godmother. I never got my wishes, but that was okay because it was all done in fun.

I grew older and stopped wishing on stars, but, unfortunately, I didn’t stop wishing. Now it took on a definite greenish tint. I wasn’t wishing for a puppy or a pony, but I wished I could be more like Kathy, because all the boys liked her, or I wished I had clothes like Linda’s.

Whenever I saw someone with something I didn’t have, I thought of how much happier I would be with it, so I’d start wishing for it. Almost everyone I met seemed to have something I didn’t have. I began to believe that everyone else had everything, and I had nothing.

Of course I began to feel sorry for myself. I’d whine, “If only things were different.” Or, “It’s just not fair!” Or, “Why me?”

So how did I ever find my way out of this quagmire of envy and self-pity? Believe it or not, I found my answer in the Church hymnbook. One Sunday I was sitting behind a girl who had the most beautiful hair. I was wishing that mine were that long and shiny, when we began singing “Count Your Blessings.”

Now, I had probably sung that song dozens of times, but it never meant anything to me until then. For the first time, I paid attention to the words. Why was I always wishing for things I didn’t have? Why did I feel angry and cheated because life wasn’t treating me fairly? The answer was right there in the hymn. I wasn’t counting my blessings. All I ever thought about were the things I didn’t have, which completely obscured my awareness of all the things I did have.

I went home from church and did exactly what the hymn said to do. I made a list of all my blessings. First came the obvious ones like home and family, and food and clothing. But then I wrote down other things like my personal strengths and assets, the many opportunities and positive experiences I’d had, my understanding of the gospel and the unique perspective that added to my life. When I added them up, I counted more than 100 blessings. Like the hymn says, I really was surprised.

I carried this list for a long time, and whenever I found myself slipping back into my old wishing habit, I would read the list. It always helped me to have a feeling of gratitude rather than one of envy and self-pity.

Finally the day came when I didn’t have to carry the list anymore because I no longer needed to wish for things. I was happy for others and their blessings, because I was more aware of my own blessings. I became so much happier once I finally quit wishing.

[photos] Photography by John Luke