November is, of course, a month in which we focus on what we are thankful for. Television commercials spotlight happy families preparing for Thanksgiving Day festivities, and various social media venues are filled with posts by people participating in a myriad of gratitude challenges.
Every year since I joined Facebook, I’ve participated in a “30 Days of Gratitude” challenge in which, each day, participants share one thing they are thankful for. I decided not to participate this year, but if I had, my very first post would have been about my son and daughter. Nothing — absolutely nothing — brings as much joy to my life. As in previous years, I would have gone on through the month to list the good health my children and I enjoy, my home, living in the United States, extended family, etc.
But this year’s “gratitude list” would, no doubt, include a new addition — friendship with my 90+-year-old pen pal. I’ve shared before about how I came to visit PB, as I’ll refer to him, this summer after he moved to a local nursing home after surgery in which his right leg was amputated. Over several weeks between his move to that nursing home and his subsequent move to a different home near two of his daughters several states away, I was privileged to get to know PB as we chatted several times a week.
After PB moved, we began corresponding. Letters from PB are like conversations with PB — intriguing and engaging and, I don’t mind admitting, often far above my head.
To my reference to a desire to someday take sailing lessons, he responded with several discussions on the design and building of sailboats and sails (PB has designed and built several sailboats and everything needed for those vessels). We’ve discussed politics and even poetry. With every letter, I am amazed at the depth and breadth of PB’s interests and knowledge and at his intellectual vigor — his passion for learning even more exceeds that of the vast majority of people of any age.
His last letter is, without a doubt, the most amazing so far. Three typed pages — single-spaced at that — in which he shares with me his thoughts on the theory of relativity. I don’t mind admitting that until I began reading PB’s latest missive, I hadn’t given a single thought to this topic in my entire life. I took the bare minimum of science courses through high school and college, and if an instructor ever spent any time at all on the subject, I must have been daydreaming.
PB was a college professor, and it is evident as I read his letters that he was a great one. Through his discussion, even I could make sense of quite a bit of what he shared concerning the theory of relativity. When I refolded his letter and slipped it in my letter box, I was smiling with the satisfaction that comes from grasping concepts that until then were unclear and seemingly beyond my grasp.
PB makes me chuckle, and he makes me think. He gives me a reason to look forward to checking the mailbox and a reason to do something I’ve always loved to do — write real, honest-to-goodness letters.
He causes me see my own life, my own circumstances, from a broader perspective, and in doing so, he makes me appreciate anew the many blessings I have.
He’s the reason I give you a very important piece of advice today. I know you’re busy; I know that, in fact, this is probably your busiest time of the year. You have turkeys to baste and pumpkin pies to bake, presents to buy and wrap and adorn with bows, school concerts and Sunday School programs to attend, and perhaps even activities to plan for a pesky Elf on a Shelf.
Those are very important things — admirable, even. So much so that I hesitate to ask you to do another thing, and if it weren’t so important, I wouldn’t even mention it.
But it is.
Reach out to someone that you otherwise wouldn’t. Not just once, but make them a regular part of your life. That elderly widow who sits alone in church every week? Sit with her next Sunday and invite her to your home for lunch afterward. The young college student who interns part-time in your office? Take her out to lunch this week. The middle-aged empty-nesters that moved in down the street this summer? You know — the ones you kept intending to take cookies to but now it’s too late. Build a fire in your outdoor fire pit and invite them over for hot chocolate or a glass of wine one evening. Whoever you reach out to, make them a part of your family, of your life.
I can’t guarantee that the elderly widow or the college intern or the new neighbors will be the blessing to you that PB has been to me.
But I can guarantee you that reaching out to others will in itself enrich and bless your life.
So while I’m not participating in a Facebook gratitude challenge this year, if I were, my list would start like this:
- my son and daughter
- my pen pal — PB
I’m also very, very thankful for you. I know how busy you are and that you have so many blogs you could visit. I do not take your being here lightly. I am thankful every day that I have the opportunity to write here and that others choose to read what I’ve shared. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!!