Gratitude helps us savor present joys, look with hope to future


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Leaders at Hancock Regional Hospital were recently asked to choose a word to describe the next twelve months of their lives.

I settled on “gratitude.”

Gratitude looks back. I am grateful that my 19-year-old self said “I do” to my wife who has said “I still do” back to me now for nearly 47 years.

I am grateful for parents and a home church that supported my dream to attend Johnson University in Knoxville, Tennessee. I met my wife there, and a life in ministry began that led us eventually to Hancock County, Indiana.

I am grateful for four grown children, their spouses, and six grandchildren — all healthy and living within an hour’s drive.

I am grateful for continuous employment in just two careers. Caring churches where I learned how to preach and a first-class hospital where I learned how to listen.

I am grateful for leaders with vision, colleagues with integrity, friends with a sense of humor, teams to root for, fertile soil for tomatoes, colorful Indiana sunrises and sunsets, and eye surgeons who can replace worn-out lenses in just minutes.

Gratitude can also look around and forward. My best days are when I see the success, brilliance and happiness of others and appreciate the good company. Gratefulness, and its close cousin contentment, helps me draw hopeful conclusions.

There was an old man who was envied for his beautiful white horse. People offered great prices for the horse, but he always refused. “This horse is a friend, not a possession.”

One morning the horse was missing. The villagers said, “You old fool. We told you someone would steal that beautiful horse. You should have taken the money. You’ve been cursed with misfortune.”

He responded, “Perhaps. All I know is that my horse is gone; the rest I do not know. Whether it be a curse or a blessing, I can’t say.”

The horse returned after several days. He had run away into the forest and returned with a dozen wild horses. “You were right,” the villagers said. “What we thought was a curse was a blessing.”

The man responded, “Perhaps. Once again, you went too far. How do you know if anything is a blessing or a curse? Until you see the whole story, how can you judge?” But all the people could see was that he now had 12 more horses that could be sold for a great deal of money.

The man’s son worked with the wild horses. One day, he fell off and broke both his legs. The villagers said, “The horses were not a blessing; they were a curse. Your son has broken his legs and now in your old age you have no one to help you.”

The old man said, “Say only that my son broke his legs. We have only a fragment of the whole story.”

In time, the country went to war. The young men of the village were required to join the army, but the son of the old man was excused because of his disability. “You were right. Your son’s accident was a blessing. Our sons are gone forever.”

“You people are always quick to jump to conclusions. Only God knows the final story,” he said.

“In everything, give thanks. For this is the will of God, in Christ Jesus, concerning you.” — I Thessalonians 5:18

Russ Jarvis retired in May as director of chaplaincy services at Hancock Regional Hospital. This weekly column is written by local clergy members.