It’s so easy to take things (and people) for granted. I, for one, need reminders. I need eyes to see the opportunities to give thanks. Otherwise, left to my own devises, I’ll race right past them. So I ask for reminders, and I ask for eyes to see the chances.
Here’s an example from some years ago. I was at my desk in the middle of a business day, up to my ears in work, blinders on, moving fast, when all of a sudden a name popped into my mind. Sarah Ann. Hmm. Sarah Ann. I hadn’t thought of her in years, and I hadn’t seen her since I was ten, but here (none to conveniently) was a reminder of her, followed quickly by the thought of thanking her. I’m too busy, I thought. I don’t have time. And, besides, I don’t even know where she is. But I’d asked for the reminders, after all, so it didn’t seem quite right to ignore them when they arrived. I pushed the files aside, and in ten minutes I’d found a phone number for her. She was in a retirement home. I gulped and dialed. She answered. “Sarah Ann? Do you remember me?” And she welcomed me back into her life as if I’d only just left. I told her I wanted to thank her for all the ways she’d made my childhood shine -- the taffy pulls and the skating rinks and the ferris wheels. And so began, from that one tiny seed of a reminder, a reacquaintance that lasted until she died. I still miss her. Sometimes I think of all the joy we’d both have missed if I’d missed that one small mid-day chance to say thank you.
“Without a spirit of gratitude, life flattens out and becomes dull and boring. But when we continue to be surprised by new manifestations of life and continue to praise and thank God and our neighbor, routine and boredom cannot take hold. Then all of life becomes a reason for saying thanks. . . .” Henri Nouwen, Lifesigns at 71.