Those who go hungry appreciate most the feeling of being full. Those who have been thirsty realize the value of water.
In the aftermath of Yolanda (Haiyan – the super typhoon that hit the Philippines in November, 2013 taking thousands of lives), I remember a high school student, who went days without taking a bath, sharing how he savored each drop of water in his bath after the disaster.
So in my journey with cancer and a broken ankle, I learned to be thankful for my oncologists, surgeon and caregivers, who knew my needs and looked after me over the years. I learned to be grateful that even though my medications caused side effects, my oncologist was able to recommend helpful remedies.
When I remember the love and care I received during these dark times, I am overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude. Of the people God sent to help lighten my load and brighten the way, I am especially touched by our family helpers.
When I fell and could not walk, my drivers helped to carry me in the wheelchair down and up two flights of stairs each time I need to consult the doctor. I remember each meal prepared, each item of clothing washed and ironed, every plate, spoon, fork, and cup washed, every room of the house cleaned. I recall each bath and ride in the wheelchair.
I think further of the hands and feet that did all those things. And I reflect with thankfulness the hearts and minds that move these hands and feet.
Sufferings are lenses through which we see life and living in a different perspective. These lenses magnify and enhance the trivial and unseen things, things I previously took for granted. Remembering to put on these lenses helps me to open my hands.
Jesus had these lenses on when he saw the poor widow put two small copper coins into the treasury. “Calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, ‘Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on’” (Mark 12:43–44). Jesus commended the widow because she gave everything.
Similarly, Paul commended the churches in Macedonia because “in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality. For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability they gave of their own accord” (2 Corinthians 8:2–3).
When I hesitate about giving an extra tip to a porter or a waiter, I think about how insignificant this amount is in my bank balance—and yet how it might help the waiter put food on his family’s table, or how it might enable a street kid who watched my car to buy medicine for his sick mom.
Being generous is a gift from God, who does not withhold any good gift from his children. For he gave us the gift of Jesus, who “was rich, yet for [our] sake. . .became poor, that [we] through His poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). No matter how much I give, I will never outgive God.
Dear Jesus, thank you for giving yourself to me. Thank you for giving up the glory of heaven to be like us. Thank you for your sacrifice on the cross for my sins. Help me to give generously in joy and gratitude for the goodness you have bestowed in my life. Amen.