I sometimes give in to a particular temptation. This temptation sends me into melancholy thoughts. I suspect it afflicts others this way, too. It hits me often in the middle of the night. When I awake at 3:00 A.M., and do not go back to sleep, it begins to dominate me.
I start to think of things that have gone wrong in my life. If I go way back I regret the pain I gave my parents. And I know I did not show the love to my parents they really deserved. I remember how I lost contact with someone who made a big difference in my life when I was 19. I never thanked him for that. Sometimes I consider opportunities missed. For instance, I didn’t ask my grandparents to tell me about their early life. I was a young adult and they were in their last decade of aging, those precious years I had with them. At that time I thought it was all about me.
Sometimes in the middle of the night I think about other families who have all their kids and grand children together frequently. At times like that I can see all sorts of ways somebody else has a better life than I do. You get the idea. I am feeling sorry for myself and regretting all sorts of things. It can be tempting to just wallow in self pity.
But then comes Thanksgiving Day! This is a time that challenges me to change gears. To ponder all the ways I have been blessed. If I can avoid letting a football game or the dog show use up the whole day, something good can happen. Usually we say a few words about things we are thankful for at dinner. That can be a good time, especially if you have your family around the table.
Besides that, however, sometimes all by myself I take time to think about how my life is uniquely blessed. I marvel at how my parents blessed me with a sense of security, security in love, not money. How my grandparents and uncles and aunts demonstrated what mature, happy people do for one another. I think of my Uncle Hank, who paid me a full adult wage when I was only 14 or 15 years old. Looking back I now see how a couple older cousins were models for me, demonstrating how farm boys go to college and become teachers.
Then other beautiful faces come to mind. My math teacher in high school who told me frankly to make sure I did not become a father before I was ready because, she said, “You need to go to college.” I remember the atheist (I’ve written about before), who recommended I go to a Christian college. Then, there was Marv, a gentle Christian man only five years older than myself, but to me a wise counselor. Later in my life trajectory I see the former British soldier who helped us get the last available safe compartment on a miserable train at Zahidan in southeastern Iran. It went once a week to Pakistan. We didn’t know it was a common route for all sorts of smugglers and criminals. He knew and he made sure we were safe.
Some faces are still in my life, like one of my best friends, who while I was in the depths many decades ago, affirmed that I was someone with a future. And I believed him. How can I forget the man who prayed for me in the parking lot at Lowes when I was struggling with cancer? Many more faces come to mind than I could describe here.
Most of the people who have blessed me, shown me how to live, or gave me a gift of some kind are gone from this earth. So I can no longer reach out and thank them. But I can thank the One who put them in my life. So I celebrate with a prayer of Thanksgiving. Gratitude is the best medicine for the temptation of feeling sorry for yourself.
I am grateful. And it feels so good!
Let all that I am praise the Lord; with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name.
Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me.
Psalm 103:1-2 NLT
© 2021 Stanley Hagemeyer