Jim was one of the most optimistic, joy-filled, inspiring friends I have ever had. Always smiling—even when he didn’t feel well. One of the highlights of my Sunday morning was to soak up the sunshine of his greeting.
Jim had his regular spot in the back of the church where Linda and I served. If he was not there, I counted it a pleasure to visit his house on Sunday evening and, after a lengthy conversation, serve him the Lord’s Supper. He was always grateful. And I was always a better man because Jim brushed up against me.
The signature above was on a letter Jim sent me after we moved to Chattanooga, TN. I cherish it, because it is the last communication I had with him before he went to be with the Lord. Hard to read his handwriting, isn’t it? That’s because Jim couldn’t hold a pen in his hand. He signed his correspondence by holding a pen in his teeth while someone held the paper up to his face.
Jim could’t scratch his face when it itched. He couldn’t walk. He couldn’t cough. One day I visited him in the hospital and he asked me to help him cough. I put my hands on his abdomen, jumped as high as I could, and came down on my hands with the full force of my weight. I was able to force a little bit of air from his lungs.
Jim was a paraplegic. After work on Christmas Eve, 1969, Jim stopped at a restaurant before going home. He was shot in the back of the neck by a man who mistook him for someone else. And Jim’s life was never the same.
But if you asked him about it, he just may tell you that he was a better man after that Christmas Eve. He would tell you that he was more thankful. He would tell you that he had learned the value of little things.
This Thanksgiving remember the little things. Being able to cough on your own. Picking up a pen and signing your name. Flicking a fly off your nose. Sitting in a chair without being strapped in. Standing in a hot shower—even a warm one if someone has used most of the hot water. Washing your face. A walk through the woods. Brushing your teeth. Touching the face of a loved one. Buttering a hot roll. Kicking one of the kids’ toys out of the way. Using the remote. Waving hello to a friend. Cooking the meal or carving the turkey. Walking across the street with a hot loaf of sourdough bread and crying with a grieving neighbor.
“…nothing but God’s Grace!” wrote Robert Louis Stevenson. “We walk upon it, we breathe it; we live and die by it; it makes the nails and axels of the universe…” No wonder the Apostle Paul pleaded for us to “always give thanks to God the Father for everything”—especially the little things. For life is made up of the wonderful little things.