by Iva Gardner
The Ruston Daily Leader, Monday, November 3, 2005

Have you ever given a thought to the meaning of being thankful? In everyday life we sometimes get caught up in the moment of “doing what we are doing.” Although we are taught at a very young age to say “thank you” for all acts of kindness that are bestowed upon us, do we really mean it? It took me a great deal of time and several different incidents to realize how much we take life for granted and how much the simple things go unrecognized. As I sit and ponder on a daily basis wondering whether or not I am truly thankful, I am drawn to a place in my life that I will forever hold dear.

It was Thanksgiving 1997; my father had been diagnosed with stomach cancer and had been in and out of the hospital. All of his siblings except for one came from far and near to be with him. A strong man who once stood 6ft. 4 inches tall and weighed a good two hundred twenty five pounds with a smile that would brighten any room now lay in a hospital bed, frail, weighing merely a hundred and sixty pounds. My father never asked for much, but he gave all that he had. He was a retired Rock Island railroad worker who took a liking to farming and believed in helping others. I remember how he always said “thank you” whenever he gave things to other people. Although people would thank Him he always felt the need to thank them back. One day while he and I were talking, I asked him why he did that. He looked at me with that beautiful smile that I can still see and said, “Nick, I am just thankful that the Lord has blessed me in such a way that I am able to bless someone else.”

He then went on to tell me how he had to work and take care of his younger siblings because he was the oldest and how many times Papa would get onto him and hold him accountable for what the other children did. It still amazes me that no matter how sick and weak he was, he always managed to say “thank you” to the doctors, nurses, home health aides, and to us. He was considered the ideal patient because he never complained or asked for much, even on his worst days. The only thing that I can remember him ever asking for was Prayer.

I remember how my life changed after he passed away on January 1, 1998. I was so withdrawn and could not see past my own sadness enough to remember that I had other people counting on me to keep the family going. The following years have been hard for me and, of course I didn’t feel the same way about Thanksgiving. After all, what did I have to be thankful for? I had lost my father and as far as I was concerned, I had nothing.

After many personal trials and tribulations-major events that have taken place in the world, things happening with my family, friends, and my co-workers-I am so thankful that God allows me to get up in the morning. It’s so awesome to be able to see His work in motion. I remember watching a hummingbird outside of my window one day. I’ve watched birds before, but this particular day was different. There was a caterpillar on the door, and the hummingbird was nudging it not pecking at it. After about two minutes the caterpillar fell to the ground; and crawled away and the hummingbird flew away. It was as if there two tiny creatures were helping each other.

As I witnessed this incident, I felt a peace that I have never felt before come over me. At that moment, I was set free from all the sadness that I had allowed to consume me and keep me from enjoying life. I took it as a confirmation that my dad was happy and that I was going to be alright. That same year was the first time in many that I looked forward to the Thanksgiving holiday, for I finally knew what it truly meant to be Thankful. Although that was the first and last time that I’ve seen a hummingbird outside of my window, I am so very thankful that God loves me so much that he allowed me to sit still that day and truly understand the Master at work.

LifeNotes articles were written by staff of Louisiana Methodist Children’s Home and were first published in The Ruston Daily Leader.