A few days ago, I was feeling a little bit down. It was one of those days when I felt less happy with life. I guess I was wondering why certain things have gone one way and not the other, pondering why some others’ lives seem better than mine.
Then I began to think of a few people who had really helped me in some way, some long ago when I was a teen, others in more recent years. And that started me on a whole journey thinking of more individuals from way back and I began to write down how each one of them had blessed me, helped me, given me opportunity, or done something that made a difference in my life. I thought of the kindness of my grandparents, their tolerance of my selfish behavior, the fun we had together in games or jokes. I thought of my own parents and the countless ways they blessed me with a foundation of security and faith, not in terms of money, but much more in those things that are priceless. I considered my uncle Hank, the first person who paid me real wages for working with him on a carpentry project one summer, teaching me skills at the same time. There was the math teacher who told me I should go on for higher education, and avoid starting a family with a girl friend the way it sometimes happened. When I happened to get a job with the Milwaukee Railroad as a brakeman I earned high wages which I didn’t deserve. And then, I was surprised when the boss allowed me to leave for college and return to work each summer.
Then my memory really began to take off with certain people I met in college and later in seminary, or overseas. Some were instructors or professors, others were friends, each of whom chose to befriend me or teach me, bless me with insights or just plain help when I needed it. The names and faces began to flood into my mind faster than I could possibly put them all down. There were life-long relationships, and there were those one-time events. I can actually remember a compliment one friend gave me about fifty years ago that changed my view of myself. And I can remember when a fellow traveler, a stranger who “knew the ropes,” helped us get a private compartment on a train in southern Iran heading into Pakistan, instead of traveling among the “third class” passengers where our lives and property would be at risk. We were stupid and idealistic. He was experienced and knew how raw the situation really was. I never saw him again.
I thought of the experienced elder in a church I served, who gave me clear personal advice when I really needed it. He was not educated as I was, but he was advanced in spiritual living and wisdom. Another special couple befriended me when I was in great need, reached out to their pastor, when I didn’t even know them well, and provided ministry to me that came from the pure love of Jesus. There are other figures in that collage who have revolutionized my life, and I could not tell you them all. But it was vitally important that I began to think about them, and to give thanks to God for them. I ended up with a great feeling of gratitude and humility in place of that “feeling sorry for myself” I mentioned at first.
I know now that I can return to that mental exercise and write more stories any time, especially any time I am feeling down. That is what I learned. God has blessed me in ways uniquely designed and scheduled for my good. I am quite certain that you who read these words could do this same thing too. If you give yourself time to think carefully, your list will develop as mine did, and forgotten blessings will come into focus. I suspect you, like me, will feel deep gratitude for the unique people whose faces and voices will flow through your mind.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.
Psalm 100:5 NIV
Note. In a lifetime I have met five or six people whose stories seem to include only those who abused or neglected them, took advantage rather than blessed them. If that seems true for you, I can only encourage you to watch for others who are hurting. Offer your attention and extend help. When we show caring love for others, we are blessed with surprising outcomes.
© 2021 Stanley Hagemeyer