Monday, December 06, 2010

Forty-ninth Monday: She wrote notes

She had major surgery and needed a home in which to recover.  In the beginning, she needed someone to help change incision dressings, prepare healing meals, encourage and comfort through post surgery pain and uncertainty.  She needed an arm to lean on while she slowly climbed the steps and sometimes she needed quiet music, candlelight, and foot rubs.  For three weeks, Rachel stayed here. 

While she was in my home, I observed something very special.  Rachel wrote thank you notes. Prodigiously.  From the first week to the last, she wrote them.  In pain and groggy from meds, she wrote them.  In bed, she wrote them.  At the warm, sunny end of the kitchen table, she wrote them.

The EMT's who arrived in the ambulance and took her to the hospital received notes and cookies.  She was in so much pain when they attended her that night that she had no recollection of who they were, but she called the fire station and got their names from the ambulance log and wrote notes to them. 

Her nurses received notes.  She asked at the desk on her hospital floor for all their names and wrote them each a note.

Her doctor and physician's assistant received notes.  The day of her first follow up appointment, she hand delivered those notes.  The PA smiled broadly, almost dancing upon receiving the envelope, and exclaimed, "This is my first thank you note from a patient!"

When she left our home, everyone here, Coty, Thomas, Joel and I, all received individual handwritten notes.

Her habit of handwritten gratitude puts me to shame and I know I am not alone.  I had a conversation with a friend at church today who admitted that, like me, she often fails to convey her thanks with a handwritten note.

Oh, we mean to do it.  We put "write thank you notes" on our to-do list.  We may even buy thank you cards and stamps.  But we procrastinate, thinking we are too busy at the moment, and time passes.  Finally, so much time passes that we feel embarrassed to write, our failure highlighted by our tardiness.  Perhaps we try to justify our actions by telling ourselves that, well, we said thank you.  They didn't really expect a note, now, did they?

That EMT certainly didn't expect a note.  Neither did the PA or the surgeon.  And how often do you think the nurses who measure the urine in the basin or change the colostomy bag get a hand-written note from a grateful patient?

Was that note writing obligatory?  Just the compulsory penning of thanks by a dutiful daughter whose mother taught her well.  Or worse, done because she thought she'd get even better care next time if her care givers got a note this time?  No, no, no!

That note writing was the expression of a heart so filled with thankfulness that it spilled out grateful words across countless little cards.  No detail was forgotten.  No small act of care or kindness done for her was omitted from her written outpouring of thanksgiving.

I am convicted - of my ingratitude, of my procrastination, of the self-centered ways in which I order that aforementioned to-do list to reflect my priorities instead of ordering it according to this admonition....

"in humility, count others more significant than yourselves."

To fail to give thanks is to set myself above the giver as though I was fully deserving of every gift, as though it were my due.  This dishonors, by failing to recognize and appreciate, the sacrifice and attention of the giver.  If I don't take the time to say thank you, I have forgotten the giver and thought only of the gift and of myself.

I do this to God and I to it to people.  So very often.   

My dear friend's illness and the way in which she has responded to it has touched many lives.  It has touched mine by giving me the opportunity to observe at close range one who excels in thankfulness.  Rachel's is an example to follow.  I start by thanking you, Father God, for bringing her, for three precious weeks, into my home.

And more gifts...

deepened friendship
observation of the generosity of the body of Christ
little victories (for Rachel) over new daily tasks

children's voices singing the names of God
Kristi's skillful directing
potluck tables filled with good food
laughter and fellowship
people who pitch in, dry dishes, mop floors, clean bathrooms

leaf raking with Coty and Joel
football watching with my guys

wedding preparations moving along
Thomas and Kay, reading in the living room

a long phone conversation with my mom and dad
fb chats with Andrew
Sunday evening skyping with Matthew

a helpful little book
quiet moments in a busy month

This practice of listing thanks early in the week, of publicly logging thanksgiving for abundant gifts is a marker in my week.  There is another practice that needs to become just as regular - writing my thanks on paper and sending it to those whose generosity graces my life.  There are so many I need to thank.  It's time to get started.

#'s 1522 - 1539

1 comment:

Bonnie said...

It is a lost art to write a thank you that comes in the mail.
You have done it to me!
I find that I don't expect one from those who are very busy or talk more than write!