This year, I find that I am especially thankful for warmth.
We needed to replace our furnace last week, and were without heat in our home (aside from some space heaters) for three nights. Temperatures around here that week were below freezing (around the mid twenties Fahrenheit). It was an uncomfortable few days.
My personal thermostat is generally about 10 degrees cooler than that of most people; I’ve always liked it cold. Still, I have little children and a wife who likes it warm, and I couldn’t help but feel incompetent for not taking care of them better.
So now we have a new, much more efficient furnace. Nobody got sick because of the time in the cold, but it could have been a lot worse.
I’m thankful for the pair of guys who put the new furnace in. It might have been easy to look down on them as they did their “grunt” work, but they were professional, competent and performed a service I couldn’t have done. To be honest, they probably have far better reason to look down on me for sitting at a desk all day, making a game.
I’m thankful none of us got sick.
I’m thankful for a kind wife who didn’t yell at me, even though I felt I deserved it.
I’m thankful that I have a job that allows me to have the money to pay for the new furnace. We’re not top wage earners, but we have enough for our needs, and we live within our means. I’m thankful that is possible, and that my family has a history of financial prudence.
As always, I also have tangential thoughts.
One, it’s always nice to be thanked. There’s a rush of satisfaction and warmth that comes with genuine thanks, and it can warm the soul like few other things can. There is also the personal peace that comes with living a life worthy of being thanked. There’s also a special kind of warmth that comes from doing things worth being thanked for, but doing them anonymously.
Two, I remember a moment of contrast that reminds me of those cold nights.
I was a missionary for the LDS church in Alabama for two years. (My little brother is going to the same mission here in a couple of weeks, curiously enough.) I spent a few months in the bowels of Birmingham. A couple of white guys in the inner city of a Deep Southern town just didn’t fit in. There were genuinely scary moments, and some genuinely threatening people. (Of course, some saw us as a threat as well, albeit in a slightly different light.)
I was young, preoccupied, and somewhat scared the day that we walked past a fellow sleeping in a doorwell. He looked rather disheveled, and probably asleep. It wasn’t cold at that time of the year, but when you’re sleeping on cement in the shadow, with only a single blanket, you’re not going to be comfortable. His skin happened to be darker than mine, his appearance far less presentable.
And I was afraid of him.
I don’t know his story, and I may never know. We walked on by, and didn’t bother him. We didn’t speak of it, so I can’t speak for my companion, but there were warring factions in my mind and heart. My mission was to uplift and serve. I wanted to help the fellow in whatever way I could.
But I was afraid.
Perhaps he was a drunk, sleeping off a binge. Maybe he would wake up blindly swinging. And what would he think of a couple of white boys in Sunday attire, rousing him from his nap? We had more than our share of racial tensions to deal with when people saw us coming from a distance. Up close and personal might be even more dangerous. As missionaries, we also had our share of religious bigotry to deal with, and layered on top of racial and sociopolitical tensions, we could be in some very tight situations. A guy sleeping in a doorway just presented a lot of unknowns.
I wanted to help, but I was afraid.
I didn’t remember Paul:
“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7)
I didn’t remember the lessons of the Good Samaritan.
I was just afraid. And now, over a dozen years later… I am cold.
It is a terrible, bitter cold, when one is left to wonder “am I that Levite?” or “why didn’t I help?” As I’ve noted elsewhere, charity to me is a way of life, a set of actions guided by a pure love of your fellow beings. As one man put it:
It’s not a check to an Organization, or a handful of coins in the Salvation Army bucket on your way out the door with a hundred dollars’ worth of food. It’s not something done for attention, tax breaks, or donor perks. It’s simply something you do because it’s the right thing to do, it’s very personal, and it’s more about the giving than the receiving, even receiving thanks. It’s about doing the right thing, no matter what.
So yes, I am grateful for a lot of things. I’ve tried to live a life where other people can be grateful for my existence. I don’t always get it right, and I’m thankful for those who forgive me when I mess up.
You have to move on in life and not get stuck in past mistakes… but you have to learn from them, too. So what would I do today in the same position?
What would you do?
Hopefully, something worth being thanked for, even if nobody ever actually thanks you. Something to bring some warmth to someone else.
Happy Thanksgiving, y’all.