Years ago, I received a powerful lesson on thankfulness from a man whose name I don’t know. The man didn’t realize he taught me anything, because he doesn’t realize much of anything. Literally. Here’s the story:
One Sunday afternoon I was in a nursing home to participate in a short church service for residents. Because the elderly folk often forgot what day it was, let alone what time it was, we visitors roamed the hallways and invited people to the activity room. At the junction of two corridors I noticed a man who looked to be in his upper twenties sitting in an armchair. I assumed he was waiting for a grandparent. As I walked past, the man sat as if daydreaming.
“Hello!” I said.
He remained silent. This fellow gazed in the direction of a wall without focusing. After finding and inviting a few more senior citizens to the activity room, I asked one of the nurses about the man in the chair.
“Oh, that’s very sad. He has the body of an adult, but his brain never developed. He has the mind of a baby.”
So the “visitor” actually lived there, even though he was decades younger than other residents. I couldn’t help reflecting on the many things I’d done in life that man had never done—and never would. He hadn’t attended school. He hadn’t shared jokes. He’d never driven a car, read a book, gone swimming, carried on a conversation, fallen in love, gotten married, or done countless things I took for granted. Except for the grace of God, I could have been the mindless man languishing in that armchair, and he could have been the one looking at me with eyes full of pity!
Dear friend, this Thanksgiving you may question whether you have much for which to be thankful. Perhaps you wish you were richer, more attractive, more intelligent, more muscular, more successful, more _________ [fill in the blank]. But realize this: No matter what you do not have, apart from the grace of God you could be sitting in a nursing facility this very instant with the intelligence of a turnip. Rather than focus on everything you do not have, thank God if you can simply think. Not everyone can.