I have a particular fondness for doing all kinds of puzzles, so there was a part of me that was pretty pleased when my doctor told me it was perfectly all right to not only continue doing what I had been doing, but to do even more. “Keep your mind active,” he said. “Reading, puzzles, learning new things – they all help.” Kind of like a prescription for puzzling – not bad.

So naturally, I began to look around for what else was available puzzle-wise. In the course of my research, I happened upon one entitled “Spot the Difference,” and I immediately remembered how much I enjoyed doing these when I was a kid. (If you ever read Highlights magazine, you’ll remember them also.) So, I decided to try it; after all, I wasn’t half bad at them when I was 10, and now that I was an adult – easy peasy.

Except that my first attempt was, shall we say, abysmal. Out of the 10 differences you were supposed to find, the first three were not difficult. Four was a little more challenging, and from five on I was eying the “Help” button more and more often. By seven, I finally pressed it because I didn’t care if it would affect my score. I simply couldn’t see any more differences without it.

Turns out, my powers of observation weren’t quite as sharp as I thought they were. Though as time went on, I became better at seeing what was actually in front of me, it made me wonder what else I was missing. I recalled the words from the Gospel of Matthew, “They look and look but do not see” (Mt 13:14) and wondered if that could possibly apply to me. Am I, for instance, truly seeing all the ways that God has blessed and continues to bless me each day? Or is a lot of it getting lost in the unrelenting inundation of bad news that surrounds us all? Can I spot the difference between the Good News and what is presented to us as just plain old news?

One of the first things I discovered when I went out of my way to become conscious of this is that my life is, quite literally, bursting at the seams with blessings. Once I had my antennae “tuned” so to speak, to pick up their frequency, they showed up everywhere. A lot of them are small reminders from God, like post-it notes left on the bathroom mirror. Some of them I only appreciated in hindsight, and many, many of them I would have missed altogether if I hadn’t made a point of noticing them.

The size of the blessing doesn’t matter; the One sending it your way does. Like Elijah who found God, not in the fire or wind or earthquake, but in a “small, whispering sound,” if we listen closely, we will discover that we are constantly in His embrace. And once we spot that difference, everything else will be blessed.

—Originally published in the Spring 2023 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.