By The Rev. Charles Lamb
The Pilgrims came to this country in 1620. Of the roughly 100 settlers who spent the first winter in Plymouth Colony, less than 50 survived. Yet the next October they held a celebration of Thanksgiving.
How could they? Native Americans had befriended them and taught them how to plant corn, beans and squash. The Pilgrims had survived the winter and had brought in a good crop. They were living with freedom and with peace.
No doubt there was much grief for those who had died. I am sure many could have been heard to say, “If only my husband, (or my wife, or my child) had lived to be here! Oh how I wish so!” But honest grief did not turn into bitterness. Instead they focused on their blessings. They had an attitude of gratitude.
There are people among us today who have found that secret also. They have a peace that transcends calamities. We not only marvel at this but, if we are wise, hope to emulate it in our own lives.
Some years ago, I knew an elderly man, a widower, who had to have a hernia operation. At that time there was a special procedure for this that was performed in Canada but not here. As explained to me, a net was inserted into the body to ensure that the hernia would not reoccur. My friend decided to go to Canada and have the surgery done there.
After his return I asked him, “How was it?” His answer almost made me laugh out loud. He said, “I enjoyed it.”
“Enjoyed it?” I exclaimed. “I never heard anyone say he enjoyed an operation before.”
He explained. He had lived in a dormitory setting with several men who were to have the same operation. They saw a film together, took a class together, visited at night and made friends. Their surgeries were on the same day, and they were together during the rehabilitation period.
He had been a lonely man. The pain evidently was minimal and the comradeship was maximum. So he had enjoyed it.
Sometimes it is possible to look for the good even in bad situations. That is easier recommended than accomplished, but if one cultivates an attitude of gratitude it becomes possible.
I knew a woman who was paralyzed from the neck down. Her brain functioned with excellence, but imagine the frustration of not being about to use your hands even to brush a fly from your face. Yet when I visited her, I found her upbeat and eager for a conversation about faith or about the world situation.
Once she said to me, “Many people who have bad things happen say, ‘Why me?’ I say, ‘Why not me?’ ”
Only once, out of scores of visits, did I find her depressed. As I entered her room she said, sadly, “You know, a life like this isn’t worth living.” There was a pause. Then she said, “Enough of the pity party! What shall we talk about today?”
I always left with a feeling that she had ministered to me more than I to her. Had I really complained that morning because I had to scrape the car windows before I could drive?
A friend of mine has a great rebuke for those who complain and whine about minor things. She grins and says to them, “Call a waaambulance.”
I don’t want to focus on the frustrations; I want to concentrate on the positives. I want an attitude of gratitude. I think you want that, too. We’ll be happier, I know. Let’s not wait to make a New Year’s resolution. Let’s make a Thanksgiving commitment now.