We’ve all been there. Minor inconveniences that disrupt our entire lives, or so we think.. The home button on my iPhone doesn’t work anymore. My front tires are low?? My house is too cold. My office is too hot. My shower is lukewarm. Where is my server? I’ve been waiting for 15 minutes! Ugh! Satellite went out during the Illini game! Why does Facebook keep changing its layout? My coffee is too weak! And the granddaddy of em all: What the heck is wrong with the Internet?!!?
I was born on the north side of Chicago and grew up in the western suburbs. We weren’t a rich family, but it was far from the poverty that my dad grew up in. And I heard about it all the time, followed by “you should be grateful for what you have.” It only made sense to me when I visited the Philippines and actually saw the simple structure that my dad called a house.
Pastor Grogan often tells me stories of his childhood in Pittsfield and how poor his family was. But just as often he told me about God’s awesome provision for his family when it seemed like no hope was left. I’ve seen how his experience has influenced the fact that he’s a very generous giver. Our senior adults pastor knows sacrifice and duty having grown up during the Depression. She learned to appreciate the meager food they had.
Our Francophone Pastor is from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Guy is an incredible man of God. Few realize the hell going on in his home country where 6 million people have been killed in the midst of civil war and over 45,000 women brutally raped. One of our elders returned to Nigeria to launch a dynamic ministry. Blessing works in the midst of constant violent attacks on Christian churches by radical Muslims.
Victims of Hurricane Sandy know gratitude at its most basic level, that they’re alive. But frustration soon sets in vying for gasoline and supplies. Several have been without power all week and are facing dropping temperatures. Disaster all around us. Yet we alleviate our First World guilt by giving $25 to Haiti Relief and volunteer twice a year at a food pantry. It’s hard to express gratitude or to alleviate someone else’s misery when we’re surrounded by seemingly endless abundance. That is unless the hopelessness is in your backyard.
I saw incredible expressions of gratitude this week. Our annual Trunk or Treat last Wednesday was split into 2 locations: one at our church and the other at an elementary school in East Urbana (the “bad” side of town). We had about 25 trunks filled with candy, hot dogs and chips, and turned the whole thing into a huge party. Big ol smiles on people’s faces…not just the kids…but they’re getting the idea that other people care about them. It was the smile of people feeling true love and acceptance.
The next day, we went to several homes in East Urbana to sign folks up for our Big Give. These targeted apartments were disabled people who probably couldn’t register on their own. It was heartbreaking to hear their financial struggles and truly understandable to witness their elation. “Thank you! You made my day. I wanted to bring my grandkids up here for Thanksgiving! Now we can really celebrate!” Others burst into tears. Gave us bear hugs. More smiles. Our Food Mobile was today. People standing for 5 hours in the cold and rain just for food. I was signing people up for the Big Give. Again, excited people. “God bless you guys! I’ve never seen anything like this! You are so thoughtful!” More smiles.
One of our Bible College students wrote on my Facebook wall: “Hey thanks for the opportunity to serve at the church today. And thank you for letting me be apart of Inspire Urbana. God is really moving in big ways in this. When we told a lady that she would be getting a turkey her face lit up full of hope. She was so thankful. She said she really wanted a turkey this Thanksgiving. Out of all the needs the people we are reaching have I think hope is one if the main ones. And hope is a need we can share. Thanks again.”
The ridiculous things we find to complain about. If we could simply appreciate even the smallest things in our lives, so many that we take for granted. And then maybe, when we see them as true blessings from God, we can turn that around into helping make life a little easier for those who are in desperate need.
When times are good, when times are bad. When I have plenty and when I have little. When things are convenient and when things are arduous, God help us to be grateful people, “giving thanks ALWAYS and for EVERYTHING to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20).