Last night, Ken and I had the opportunity to spend some time volunteering at a nursing home on the other side of town. It was a unique opportunity to play bingo alongside some of the disabled and elderly residents who live there.
Ken and I were responsible for different tables of residents, so of course we had to make it a competition to see whose table could win the most. He won.
I had the chance to play alongside some really wonderful people. One was actually a familiar friend I know from volunteer work I do at Mercury Courts, a housing development just down the road from Trevecca. I couldn’t believe he was there — and he told me he had just arrived that very day. It was a pleasant surprise for both of us. Another lovely lady, “Shorty” went to high school with my Mercury Court friend, so they had a nice reunion at our table. Another gentleman at my table could make a joke or a rhyme out of anything. His body may have been failing him, but his mind was sharp as a tack. We laughed together, hard. The lady I spent the most time with was Ms. Grateful. After every Bingo number called, she would shout out, “Thank you,” whether she had the number or not. I would help her watch for the correct numbers, and as I helped her identify them, she thanked me too.
The social director told me that she was the most grateful resident they had.
Ms. Grateful couldn’t say much else — not that I could understand anyway. Her body was confined to a wheelchair, her gnarled hands had trouble moving the bingo chips, saliva gently dripped down her chin. Her stained shirt was a visible reminder that even basic tasks were a challenge to her.
But she was the most grateful resident that they had. She had a roof over her head, a place to sleep, food to eat. And she had a friend to play Bingo with, and even someone to call the numbers. She even won. Twice.
Isn’t that enough to be grateful for? Sometimes we make gratitude too complicated, withholding a thankful heart until something “big” comes along, when all along there are little blessings sitting all around us just waiting to be acknowledged and appreciated. Ms. Grateful’s simple approach was this: Rather than looking at the things she didn’t have, she was thankful for everything she did have, right down to the Bingo caller at the front of the room.
When I took Ms. Grateful back to her floor, I thanked her for showing me a wonderful time as I touched her arm gently, and said good-bye to her now tearful face. She took my hand in both of hers, and softly kissed it. “Thank you,” she said one last time.
No, thank you, Ms. Grateful. Truthfully, I am the one who won.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” Matthew 5:8, NIV