On the book table at Anderson’s Oncology Center,
I find Nancy DeMoss’ book, Choosing Gratitude. Paging through, I see a heart-rending story: In a New Delhi slum, a three year old boy is leaning against the cot of his dying mother. The boy’s eyes are hollow, his stomach is distended, and his face is fly-infested.
“Standing there in that slum,” says Paul Tripp, “I felt all complaints I had ever spoken as if they were a weight on my shoulders.” Later, when Mr. Tripp returned to his home in America, he asked a church leader from India who had come to the states to study, “What do you think of Americans?” The man from India answered, “You have no idea how much you have, and yet you always complain.”
As I read, I become ashamed of my self-centered grumbling. I am nudged to give thanks for “common mercies,” such as bath soap, toothpaste, hot water, air conditioning, and so many other things that I normally take for granted.
I also give thanks for the great big things, such as excellent medical care, kind, caring people who treat me with dignity in my most vulnerable moments, smiles, encouraging words, books that elevate my thoughts, and prayers.
Nancy DeMoss also brings up the matter of giving thanks to God for those people who have touched our lives and who need our expressed gratitude.
Pastor William Stidger wrote a letter of thanks to his English teacher who had first inspired in him a love for literature and poetry, preparing him to become a writer. In return mail, he received a feebly scrawled note from his former teacher:
“William, I can’t tell you how much your note meant to me. I am in my eighties, living alone in a small room, lonely, like the last leaf of autumn lingering behind. I taught in school for more than fifty years, and yours is the first note of appreciation I have ever received. It came on a blue, cold morning, and it cheered me as nothing has done in many years.”
Some time ago, my husband, a retired Air Traffic Controller, felt an urge to write a thank-you letter to someone who had touched his life:
“Colonel Sam, you had a great influence on me when I was a young man. Before entering air traffic control school, I would be required to pass a physical exam. I failed because I was underweight. However, they told me to gain weight and come back in a few weeks. You flew me to Keesler Air Force Base in the summer of 1954 for the second physical, and perhaps you looked at me and thought I was still too skinny to pass the test. When we were air borne, you handed me a sack of bananas and said, “Eat these and you will weigh more.” I passed the physical, and that opened the door to my future.”
Colonel Sam Forbert responded with a phone call, saying that someone had done the same favor for him when he was a young man.
Virginia Dawkins is a newspaper columnist. Her personal experience stories and devotionals have been published in a series of Cup of Comfort books. She and her husband live in Meridian, Mississippi.