Continue being grateful

Sunday, November 21, 2010

So you think you have little for which to be thankful? Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and it's a special time when people come together to give thanks to God. Although the holiday of Thanksgiving is often overlooked to prepare for Christmas, it is still important.

Most are unlike the Pilgrims in what they appreciate these days, but everyone has reason to celebrate.

The early settlers were grateful for their harvest and their ability to survive hard times in a new country. People's needs and desires differ because of the era and the direction of the culture, but the ability to be thankful is still alive.

My eyes were opened recently as I visited a person in a nursing home.

"I never thought I'd be in a condition like this," Michael said. "I'm no good to anybody and what's worse, I can't even walk."

He wasn't in pain. His memory was good, and he remembered his old home. Despite his plight, he still had to go on trying to derive some kind of joy from life.

"Well, Mike," I said, "what are some other things you can be grateful for? You know Thanksgiving is coming soon."

He began to think.

"Well I can use a wheelchair," he said. "At least I'm not bedfast. I can go eat with the rest of them."

Michael did require a lot of assistance to get out of bed and into his wheelchair.

I asked him if they were still pureeing his food, and he told me no. He felt lucky that he could eat his food whole.

"I can still feed myself, too," he said. "I'm thankful for that. A lot of people here can't feed themselves, and they have to eat in their rooms."

Wow, I thought, watching him lying in his bed. It's easy to visualize how you'd react if you were forced into a similar circumstance, but if you were actually faced with his predicament, how would you respond?

I admired his ability to still be able to find some good in his environment.

"There are a lot of people here who are worse off than I am," Michael said.

Michael said he was lonesome. His wife had just left the facility for a short period to attend an affair at church. I reminded him that he does have lots of visitors and his wife usually spent the day with him.

He thought about what I had said for a moment and then recognized that although he didn't have as many people visiting him as he used to have, but he still has some.

I stayed a while longer and then I had to leave.

On the way out the front door, I realized that if Michael could see things to appreciate in his location, I certainly had every reason to be grateful for my innumerable gifts, and I recognized that I needed to give thanks all year not just at Thanksgiving.

Every day is the time to be grateful.

"Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, his love is everlasting." (Psalm 136:1) Only God could give someone like Michael the courage and inner resources to see beyond his present inabilities.

This 91-year-old resident of a nursing home wanted to lead a different life in another setting. Yet because of his physical disabilities, he knew he couldn't.

As we continued our conversation that Sunday afternoon, he concluded that you had to do the best you could when you found yourself at a place where you had little control over much except your mind.

So far, God keeps giving that gift to Michael.

Ellen Shuck holds degrees in psychology, religious education and spiritual direction and provides spiritual direction to people at her office.

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