A reason to be Thankful

Submitted into Contest #121 in response to: Write about someone in a thankless job.... view prompt

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Christian Inspirational

A Reason to be Thankful

In life, all deal with pain and strife,

And sometimes God will send a light.

Not a beacon or a beam,

Or even a match whose flame might gleam.

But perhaps a spark to kindle hope

To grow and shine for all to see

And make a change in you and me.

The weather could best be described as raw in a winter that seemed to last longer than usual.  Perhaps life itself was becoming all too raw to match the season.  A family doctor’s life is not made to be easy, but with increasingly sick patients flooding the office with flu, and a fellow doc in the community out of commission for an unknown time, life was an endless trial with no end in sight.  Such was my mood as I entered the long-term nursing facility for my monthly rounds.  The nursing home was really a fine facility.  It was clean, well-staffed and highly regarded by state regulators, but the nature of the facility was that it was filled with elderly resident an entire spectrum of illnesses.  Entering the building only deepened my gloom.  My situation was made worse by the double duty required due to the illness of my colleague.  I was given my list of scheduled visits to make on this date.  It was twice as long as the usual.  

I began to work my way through the list with the help of the charge nurse on the floor.  Each chart was reviewed and the patient seen, problems and data reviewed before creating a chart note to document the visit.  The process that should be comforting interaction with the resident all too often turned into a bureaucratic process that ignored the patient.

Then it changed.  The next room we visited had two residents.  The bed next to the door had a seventy-year-old lady recovering from a complicated hip fracture.  She had more than her share of complaints.  The food was unsuitable for human consumption.  The bed was too hard and too lumpy.  The nurses ignored the call bell.  The therapists had cold hands.  The nurse rolled her eyes indicating that she had heard and tried to answer these complaints many times before.  I made an effort to display sympathy for the lady and indicated that I would look into her issues and wished her a speedy recovery and discharge home.  The nurse echoed her wish for an early discharge as well.

The next resident was in the window bed.  At first, I was unsure the bed was occupied.  She was an elderly female in her mid-eighties.  She was as pale as the white sheets and so thin that the covers were barely rippled.  I knew that she had several chronic illnesses including severe disabling arthritis.  She was widowed and had survived most of her other family members.  I could tell that the nurse had a much closer relationship with this resident, Sally, than with the roommate. 

Despite her obvious medical issues, she had no complaints and was grateful for any attention and care given by the staff.  I particularly noticed her over-bed

table.  It held only a few items, but was commanded by a large worn family 

Bible.  The book’s leather cover was worn smooth.  The spine was cracked and the original gold leaf lettering was only a memory.  The Bible lay open with her tiny wire rimmed glasses lying across the pages.  

I had to ask.  “Do you read the Bible regularly?”  

Sally replied, “Yes, I read it daily.  It’s been a great comfort to me over the years.  I can’t read as much as before because as you know from my chart, my vision is failing.  But I still open it and continue daily.  I know certain passages provide comfort in personal instances and I read them extra, but I also keep to my plan.”

I asked a question and should have already known the answer.  “Have you read the whole Bible?”

Sally gave me a look that told me she knew how naïve I was.  “I’ve read this same book, cover-to-cover twenty times.  And I’ll tell you something else.  It seems like a new book every time I read it.  You see, doctor, I know that the Bible is a living book.  You change and then you read a verse or a chapter you have almost memorized, and suddenly it’s new.  It’s as though it was written just for you at the present moment.”

I could not help but think of my own life.  Reared in the church, I had been filled with Bible stories from childhood.  I had heard all about Adam and Eve, Noah and the ark, Moses in the bull rushes, the Nativity and the Easter story, but reading

 the bible was not something I did.  I had not in my sixty-odd years thoroughly read

 the Bible.  I was taken aback by this lady’s faith and her disclosure to me.  

I left the facility that day with a plan to begin a project to read the Bible at least once cover-to-cover.  I soon came to realize it was not an easy task.   There is an old riddle/joke that begins, “How do you eat an elephant?”  The answer is, of course, “One bite at a time.”  Without a better plan, I foundered and gave up.  I suspect I’m not alone in giving up on a seemingly overwhelming project.   Then, months later I came across a mailing from a devotional publisher, Our Daily Bread.

Each month I’m sent a small pamphlet with the month’s readings along with a daily writing and a prayer and an assignment for the day’s reading.  With their help I began, in earnest, to devour that elephant.  Without thinking about it, the bookmarks were gradually becoming deeper into the text.   Finally, three hundred and sixty-five days later I had completed my quest.  Had I changed?  Perhaps.

Something else happened.  On day three hundred and sixty-six I picked up my Bible and did my next reading.  It seemed like a normal thing to do.  It had become entrenched in my daily routine.  I’ll soon be completing my fourth reading.  That’s a lot from someone who didn’t start till his mid-sixties. 

 There are a lot of things I could discuss about my journey through the Bible.  But there is one in particular I will mention.  Our society, our country, and our world are changing.  Individually, we are all changing.  The people we are today, are not the same as we were months or years before.  Reading the same passage for a third or fourth time I see new meanings that were not there previously.  Many of the texts, especially the Old Testament prophets could be speaking of our twentieth century world rather than ancient Judah and Israel.  The verses have not magically changed.  Words have not jumped off the page, and rearranged themselves.  But when viewed in the context of torrid current social, political and economic news, the Bible stories now take on new meanings.

This essay was to be a note of thanksgiving.  I am thankful, very thankful, for the faith of that frail elderly lady who without knowing, coaxed, scolded and urged me to restart a journey of faith.      

November 25, 2021 00:47

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1 comment

Zack Powell
20:03 Dec 02, 2021

This is a great meditation on faith, Sam. I particularly loved the idea of the Bible meaning different things at different times in your life. That's true of a lot of books, I've found, and it's great to see that thought put into words. Great little nugget of wisdom. I enjoyed reading this. Thanks for sharing.


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