Gratitude is such a strong word. I am grateful for the home I have, the jobs that provide for us, and the unconditional love of family. But somehow ‘gratitude’ seems like a much grander condition. For it to be fitting for me to express my complete gratitude I feel like there has to be a complicated situation where someone saved the day on my behalf.
More days that I would like to admit I am focused only on my own situation and where and when I need someone to step in the gap for me. Then I’ll be grateful. But what about the times I am the one meeting a need for another in their moment of crisis? Big or small. Am I even aware of how I am being used?
Gratitude isn’t one-sided.
Eight years ago, I worked in the pharmacy department of a local grocery store. I was a new pharmacist and eager to impart all my newly gained knowledge to anyone who asked. Runny nose? I’d love to show you my decongestant of choice. Your little one can’t sleep? Try this. Most patient encounters lasted only a few moments, and I never thought about them again. Except for one.
An employee from the deli department had recently moved to the US and his English was very limited, though it was evident he was working as hard as he could to communicate. Honestly, I don’t remember what he needed help finding, but we spent quite a bit of time in that over-the-counter aisle, each piecing together what the other was trying to say in order to be sure I didn’t recommend a cough syrup when he really needed eye drops. He left the pharmacy with what he came for and I remember him stopping by the window a few days later and saying thank you.
Thanks. So simple.
A few months later my career took a turn away from community based pharmacy and I was in that store very sporadically, only for my own groceries.
Last week I found myself grocery shopping in the deli area of the same store with my daughter in tow. I got the biggest smile from this same man. A huge smile. A wave. He immediately came over and asked if I was still working at the hospital (wait – did I tell him that’s where I left to go work?), how old my daughter was, could she have a cookie. And then he said it. ‘It is so good to see you.’
It didn’t really sink in until I was thinking back over our brief conversation during my daughter’s naptime that afternoon. I had waved across the store when we had passed in previous shopping trips, but we didn’t talk for 8 years. EIGHT YEARS. Yet he hadn’t forgotten what I had done for him. Something so incredibly minor to me at the time had meant the world to him, at what I assume was a time of major transition for him.
How often are you and I in situations like this? We are serving our neighbor without realizing the impact we are making. I firmly believe the Lord puts us in situations where we are blind to them even existing. By serving and blessing others without being aware of their need, we are allowing them the opportunity to truly experience a feeling of gratitude.
Colossians 3:17 ESV ‘ And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.’
Real gratitude isn’t based on the depth of the situation we are aided from – it’s a sign of the depth of the heart behind one who is willing to aid our fellow man.
Let us never think we are too insignificant to be used by our Father on his behalf to help our neighbors. May our hearts always be willing to bestow gratitude to those who bless us and to our Father who has given the gift of salvation that we could never earn on our own.