She lay in the hospital bed, one of many patients in the trauma section. One leg was wrapped in layers of bandages that covered the exit points of hardware connected to frames designed to keep her leg straight as it healed.
Visiting as the chaplain intern, I learned of her motor vehicle accident, the pain that ensued, and the weeks of recovery ahead. I braced myself for the frustration and anger that I expected would soon come as her story unfolded. But it was not anger that came; it was gratitude.
This woman was spending the hours of each day seeking and naming small little things that she thought of, observed, or experienced that brought her joy and for which she was, therefore, thankful. So that she would not forget, she was recording them in a small book.
She shared that she didn’t write much about each one, not even a paragraph. All she needed were a few words or a sentence or two to capture the event so that later she could recall it in all its full detail.
As she shared some of the items that made it into the book, I was struck by how small and seemingly insignificant they were … at least to me. The voices in my head were trying to dismiss it by thinking this woman had nothing else to do or was just super sensitive to the things around here.
However, the more I listened to her, the more I realized how often I don’t acknowledge the sources of joy and gratitude that come my way every day. What this woman was doing was being intentional about being grateful, even while in a hospital bed.
For those who call ourselves Christ-followers, an intentional view of our daily lives, seeking to identify sources of gratitude should be a common practice. For we hold that it is a creative and ever-creating God who is the source of all that we have and the source of all that we are.
Taking time to acknowledge and appreciate even the small blessings of each day, or even each moment, is a way of connecting more deeply with God. It is a way of praising and worshiping God. It is also transforming. As I consider my own list of events that evoke daily gratitude, I find myself filled with awe of creation’s variety, diversity, and mystery, including life in so many beautiful forms, like this woman.
November is the month of the year that has a special day for giving thanks. For my part, I will be more intentional in noting all the beauty and bounty of this fantastic world. I will praise God for life and the opportunity to experience it anew each and every day. May you do the same, and then join me in saying, “Thanks be to God!”
Pete Berntson is the pastor of Church of the Palms United Methodist Church in Okatie.