Every Wednesday afternoon I lead a short worship service before the Free Store opens.
This Wednesday, I greeted everyone and simply asked, how are you doing? The response turned in to a spontaneous testimony of what people were thankful for and how they had been blessed. Some of the stories were undoubtedly worth giving thanks for: a woman shared that she had been blind and after having surgery could see again, another woman shared that she had been sober for two years and two months, a man said he was thankful for the gift of another day.
However, I not only heard people give thanks for things we would think are worthy of gratitude, but I also heard people say they were blessed when I personally know the struggles they are going through. A woman I had to hold by the arm the day before, because of her inability to walk, spoke of her thankfulness. Another woman who is in the midst of watching her mother die said how lucky she was. A man who had been incarcerated said he was blessed to be free.
The Apostle Paul instructed the Thessolonians to give thanks in all circumstances. Usually, I hear those words with my fingers crossed. They sound as impossible as praying without ceasing or loving the enemy.
I continually find that this community pushes my boundaries of what I think is possible. I don’t know what it means to give thanks. All it takes for me to lose my sense of gratitude is an I-70 traffic jam or the nonsense of political debates. And yet, in people who economically have the least, I am learning the most. People are thankful even though they live in the midst of limited opportunity and violence. Not thankful for these things, but thankful regardless of these things.
Perhaps they are thankful because many of them have found a faith that transcends what is going on outside of them, as the grace of God has been firmly established inside of them.
I was sent here as a missionary to serve this community, but every day they teach me more and more.
I can tell you who I am thankful for.