After writing Essence of Impressions, I was struck with the integral part that gratitude plays in our lives and thought it would be a good reminder for you as it has been for me. Expressing gratitude to those who have gone an extra mile to make our lives easier is such an enlivening subject. Hopefully the following personal experiences will stir your memory bank about the ones that have graced your life.
You may recall reading stories in some earlier blogs how the EUB –now United Methodist--church welcomed our single parent family into their fellowship as though we were the most important newcomers in town. My sibs and I reminisce often about our gratitude and indebtedness to the leaders who placed us under their wings— ‘Papa’ Tuttle, the youth-loving pastor, Edith Gaynor, the patient Music/Youth leader plus Sunday School teachers who helped us grow spiritually, ultimately preparing all of us for full time leadership and ministry careers. We cannot thank them enough for their love.
Ten years later found Jim and me and our four children in Fort Worth where he was balancing seminary classes with driving 500 miles every weekend to pastor the cotton-country mission and manage his family-owned butane business. He never complained about his full-to-the-brim schedule. Thankfully, a manager was found for the butane business but the mission disbanded due to the Billy Sol Estes business fraud scandal (Pecos) closing his businesses sending cotton-related workers and members of the mission to find work elsewhere. (Google: Billie Sol Estes: King of Texas Wheeler Dealers).
Sad as that situation was, the bright side was that Jim was now freed to return to the Seminary campus full time. Since additional income would be needed, I would look for full-time employment. We boxed up our belongings and planned a quick trip to Fort Worth to find housing, but unfortunately, Jim was hospitalized with kidney stones which cancelled our trip. Plan B was to try to locate seminary housing by phone. The housing secretary remembered us from the year before and because of the size of our family, went out on a limb permitting us to rent missionary housing and giving permission to have our furniture moved in before we arrived. We were almost overcome with gratitude for the special provision. Since seminary and public school for our two oldest children would begin the next week, as soon as Jim was discharged from the hospital, we left on the six-hour drive to Fort Worth.
Our next-door neighbor, a missionary doctor on furlough who was also enrolled in seminary greeted us warmly. Hearing that Jim had just gotten out of the hospital, he checked him out medically and while I flew across town to pick up meds for Jim, he proceeded to put up the beds because Jim was too weak to do so. He checked on Jim the next couple of days. We never forgot his kindness to new needy neighbors.
The next morning, as I applied for a seminary job at the business office, the secretary was elated when she learned that I had had two years of shorthand in high school. She exclaimed, “I prayed this morning that “if anyone comes in for a job who knows shorthand, I’ll quit, give her this job and fly to California to care for my mom”. My gratitude soared. Jim and I were amazed and thankful for such rapid provisions. Dr. Evans, the Business Manager, was patient and kind but it didn’t take long for both of us to realize that my short hand was inadequate for his volume of dictated letters. So, I was quietly transferred to the general business office with a filing position that wasn’t even open, but I was welcomed and comfortable.
I got acquainted with Dr. Gresham, the Dean of Students, who came in the business office several days in a row needing my assistance in finding addresses. As we chatted one morning, he said, “My secretary left because the baby they were adopting was six weeks earlier.” Then he asked “Would you like to be my secretary?” “Oh, yes! By all means!” And without further adieu, I picked up my purse and followed him across the hall into my new office. I learned later that Dr. Gresham hadn’t followed protocol by lining up his own secretary. But because he and Dr. Evans were such good friends, the decision stood.
Working with registration allowed me to get acquainted with new students like Lynn, who running into a little difficulty and needing to visit with Dr. Gresham several times, afforded us opportunity to get even better acquainted. Meeting Jim who had stopped by my desk led to Lynn and Jim’s friendship as well.
Lynn stopped by my desk one day when I was engrossed in writing something in longhand rather than typing and he was curious about what I was working so hard on. “It’s just a letter to the editor about my disagreement with an article”, which prompted him to say, “I’m the editor of a monthly state church paper. Could I read your letter?” I said sure, and handed it over. “I’ll bring it back tomorrow”, he promised. The next day, he appeared at my desk and handed me my letter considerably marked up with a red pen. I can still see Lynn’s face when he noticed tears in my eyes. He said “Your ideas are good, but it needed a little organization.” That experience was the prelude to my spiritual encounter regarding writing that I wrote about in Essence of Impressions last week. Had Lynn not reached out to me, I may not have been so aware of my desire to write being held hostage by my incompetence in writing skills. As a writer, he spotted my potential for writing. I have immense gratitude for Lynn’s timely, significant contribution to launching my writing career. He became more like a younger brother to Jim and me. He wrote the Foreword for my book—How to Get Along with Everyone (Nurturing Faith Publisher). When Jim realized his days were numbered, he requested that Lynn be asked to speak at his Celebration Service.
Back now to Secretary to Dean Gresham: As students brought problems, they’d sit in my office to wait their turn. I’d listen to them and could see simple solutions to their situations since I was a little older and more experienced. Quite often, they would just get up and leave. Dr. Gresham would open his door to see who was waiting and say “Where did everyone go?” “They decided they didn’t need to talk.” I said wryly. He smilingly declared, “I’m going to charge those boys 10 cents an hour to talk to you.” He recognized my gift for counseling. He often called me in on some of the tough decisions with students. My experience as secretary to the Dean of Students, attending chapel with Jim and all the friendships ranks as one of the most gratifying experiences in my entire life. I worked for and with him for five years until Jim graduated and we moved to Pennsylvania. He, Jim and our children were also very close.
A major source of gratitude that my sibs and I discuss is how absolutely overwhelmed we were as teenagers with how the Lord opened our minds, removing emptiness and spiritual blindness and giving us abundant life, peace and joy. In a phone visit this week with 92-year-old brother John, he reiterated. “The next morning after accepting the Lord the night before, I was filled with joy; and the joy I experienced 74 years ago is still present”. I concurred with him.
My sibs and I also have deep-felt gratitude for our exceptional mom and the personal sacrifices she made to keep us all together by working long hours on a noisy assembly line where workers’ hands had to be strapped for safety. We admired her quality of life despite the circumstances. She quietly demonstrated the ingredients that made us whole. Mom never criticized our delinquent dad, complained or apologized for what she couldn’t help. If we ever praised her, she’d say “I couldn’t do this without God’s help”.
I trust that you’ve thought about someone or several who reached out and helped you when you were unable to help yourself—maybe a parent, teacher, professor, physician, friend, relative, neighbor, etc. Use my email at the top. A follow-up blog would be enjoyable.
Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. …. give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever, his faithfulness continues through all generations. Ps. 100
The Apostle Paul was full of gratitude: This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many; expressions of thanks to God.…Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift.! II Cor. 9:12,15 (NIV)