One of my favorite encounters took place more than a decade ago in a hospital in Augusta, Georgia. I was dashing in, rushed by my schedule of too many things to do and too little time to do them, when I found myself waiting for an elevator.
As I was standing there, a custodian with his push cart filled with all sorts of tools and liquids of his trade came around the corner. I nodded to him and he to me. Just then the elevator arrived. As I stepped through the opening doors, I looked back at the smiling man and said, "I hope you have a good day." I was just in the elevator car when I heard his reply, "Every day is a good day, every paycheck is a fortune and every meal is a feast!"
I put my foot in the closing door, because I could not find the "open door" button quickly enough. I gave up my long-awaited ride for something more important: an inspiring moment. I stepped out and had a little more conversation with this oft-overlooked gift from God. After I asked him to repeat what he said and talked with him a bit, I pressed the elevator button and waited all the more patiently.
I think about that encounter so very often; and at this time of year, when Thanksgiving is emblazoned on sales circulars, billboards and specials of every other kind, I find myself almost singing the words of the man's little song of joy -- "Every day is a good day, every paycheck is a fortune and every meal is a feast!"
I, like you, have been fatigued by the rhetoric we have heard from so many sources, especially over the past year. I think we all have bad news fatigue that casts a glaze over our inner eyes to the point that we have a hard time seeing the realities of life.
Thanksgiving can clear these eyes. To be sure, we have faced economic crisis. I do not minimize that; but I realize that so many in this community have been working to do their part to ease the burdens of people who have need. The Columbus area has a wonderful group of helping organizations that are a part of its heart, soul and conscience. We all know that more can be done; but why not celebrate with thanksgiving what IS being done daily for the needy in our area? This is a community that has tried very hard to accept its responsibility to help. It is unlike any community I have ever seen.
I know many of us have felt the impact of the downturn to the point that even if one is not destitute, there is some pain. Yet I have found that many people have learned the value of what they do have, as the custodian at the hospital emphasized. He could have thought of a thousand things he wished for, and he could have been miserable; but he thought instead of the things he did have as true blessings.
That is what Thanksgiving is all about.
This year marks the tenth Thanksgiving we have shared as a part of this awesome community. We are surrounded with services, relationships, amenities, opportunities, joys and anticipation of new things that are beyond imagination. I hope the joy of this Thanksgiving will be in our ability to see clearly the positive aspects of what we have, and that we will not focus on what we lack. After all, "Every day IS a good day, every paycheck IS a fortune and every meal IS a feast." We need only to see all of our blessings through eyes of Thanksgiving. I am so thankful to be a part of this incredible Columbus community.
Jimmy Elder, pastor, First Baptist Church of Columbus.