On caregivers, faith, family, and writing…

Published in the Rains County Leader on November 24, 2022:

Last  week I shared a post I called Counting or Complaining about counting your blessings. This column will be in the edition released on Thanksgiving Day, and I want to share one of my favorite stories about gratitude from a column I shared in 2014.


On Sunday, Pastor Jason preached about being thankful – yours probably did, too. The sermon was enlightening and inspiring, but what really stuck with me was a comment he made in his introductory remarks: “I’ve always thought we should devote 364 days a year to being thankful and set aside only one day for grumbling and complaining.”

This time of year, a lot of people talk about cultivating an attitude of gratitude, but sometimes the resolve doesn’t last long. It takes time to develop a daily habit of being thankful. In keeping with that thought, I’d like to share a story about a lady who knew what it meant to be grateful. This true account of Anna, a woman who was born into slavery in Maryland, is used by many ministers this time of year, but it was originally told by Fulton Oursler.

Oursler remembered eating with Anna as she sat in his home with her hard, old black hands folded, “Much obliged, dear Lord, for my vittles.”

“But Anna,” he pointed out, “you’d get your vittles whether you thanked the Lord or not.”

“Sure,” she responded, “but it makes everything taste better to be thankful.”

“You know,” she said, “an old preacher taught me to play a game about being thankful, looking for things to be thankful for. You don’t know how many of them you pass right by unless you go looking for them. Take this morning for instance. I wake up and I lay there wondering what I got to be thankful for now. With my husband dead and having to work every day I can’t think of anything. What must the good Lord think of me, His child? But the honest truth is I just can’t think of a thing to thank him for. Then, my daughter opens the bedroom door, and the smell of coffee comes from the kitchen. Much obliged, dear Lord, for the coffee and a daughter to have it ready for an old woman when she wakes up.

“Now, for a while I have to do housework. It’s hard to find anything to thank God for in housework. But when I dust the mantelpiece, there is Little Boy Blue. I’ve had that little china boy for many years. I was a slave when I got it as my one Christmas present. I love that little boy. Much obliged, dear Lord, for Little Boy Blue.

“Almost everything I dust reminds me of something – even the pictures that hang on our cracked, unpainted wall. It’s like a visit with my family who are all gone. They look at me, and I look at them, and there are so many happy things to remember. Much obliged, dear Lord, for my memory. Then, I go for a walk downtown to buy a loaf of bread and cheese for dinner. I look in all the windows; so many pretty things.”

Ousler commented, “But Anna, you can’t buy them. You have no money.”

“Oh, but I can play – play dolls. I think of how your ma and sister would look in those dresses, and I have a lot of fun. Much obliged dear Lord for playing in my mind. It’s a kind of happiness.

“Once I got caught in the rain,” she said, “and it was fun for me. I’ve always heard about people’s shower baths, but I never had one. Now I have one. You know God is just giving Heaven away to people all day long. I’ve been to the park and seen the gardens but I like the old bush in my back yard better. One rose will fill you with all the sweetness you can stand.”

Oursler finished the story. “Anna taught me a great deal about life. I’ll never forget when word came to me that Anna was dying. I remember taking a cab and standing by her bedside; she was in deep pain and her hard old hands were knotted together in a desperate clutch. Poor old woman, I thought. What had she to be thankful for now? She opened her eyes and looked at me. `Much obliged, dear Lord, for such fine friends.’ She never spoke again, except in my heart, but she speaks to me every day there, and I’m obliged, dear Lord, for that.”

Happy Thanksgiving, and much obliged, dear Lord, for each of my readers.



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A Long and Winding Road

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