My family and I rang the doorbell and then waited quietly on the front porch. After several minutes, our elderly friend opened the door and invited us to come in. As he hugged us, tears slid down his kind face. “It’s mighty good to see you,” he said.
We chatted briefly with him, and then he said, “Come on back. She’s in the bedroom.”
I followed him to the room where his wife lay. I saw how weak and frail she was. With trembling lips, she gave me a smile.
I said, “Is there anything I can do for you?”
With a quavering voice, she asked, “Would you trim my toenails?”
“Certainly,” I responded. As I began her pedicure, she started to cry. “Everybody’s so good to me.”
Then she began to name those who had been especially kind to her. Her husband headed the list. “Paul takes such wonderful care of me, but I wish he didn’t have to. He’s not well, and I don’t like being a burden to him. I wish I could do for him like I used to.”
As I continued to file her toenails, she talked about her children and what a help they were. She mentioned the deacon from our church who brought cassette tapes of the worship service each week. She spoke of neighbors and other friends from the church who regularly brought food. She showed me the basket of cards she kept within arm’s length so that she could read them again and again. She concluded her long list of blessings by saying, “Even my doctor is a wonderful Christian man.”
She amazed me. She always had. Although she had been homebound all the years I’d known her, she somehow managed to stay focused on the positive aspects of her situation. Certainly she experienced negatives, such as: discomfort, loneliness, weakness, dependence, confinement, and the like. However, she kept those in the background of her mind.
She constantly expressed her gratitude, as she did that night I trimmed her toenails. She always had a good word to say about everybody. Not once did I ever hear her say an unkind word about anybody. Such an attitude made her a joy to be with, even in the midst of a difficult situation.
She died not long after we visited her that long-ago night. But I think of her often, especially during the Thanksgiving season, for she taught me that gratitude is possible even when circumstances are not ideal. In fact, that’s precisely when it’s the most meaningful to the one expressing thanks and to those who observe that expression of gratitude.
Although my friend never quoted Psalm 103:1-2 to me, I know she did exactly what the psalmist did. “Praise the LORD, I tell myself; with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name. Praise the LORD, I tell myself, and never forget the good things he does for me.” (New Living Translation).
Because she did that, her heart overflowed with a gratitude that touched my life. From her I learned that a thankful heart is a joy to have and to share. Actually, it is one of the blessings the Lord gives to those who truly love Him.
Excerpted from Reflections (Â©2002) by Johnnie Ann Burgess Gaskill, www.jgaskill.com.
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