I had the opportunity to work with a person over 30 years ago, who, when you asked how he was doing, would always state: “Never Better!” I got to know this person very well and I knew he was not always feeling: “Never Better!” He had constant physical pain. At times it would get the best of him, but, he would never let on. His response was always: “Never Better!”
I found this individual to be a very joyful and grateful person, at the core of his being he was thankful for Jesus, his life, his family, his friends, and the work he was able to do. He was a person who radiated gratitude.
Gratitude is something I need to work on in my life. When I spend time in quiet, reflective prayer I realize that my life, no matter how many ups and downs I have experienced, is completely blessed by God. I should be grateful, but many times I am not.
The late Henri Nouwen wrote: gratitude as a discipline involves a conscious choice. I can choose to be grateful even when my emotions and feelings are still steeped in hurt and resentment. It is amazing how many occasions present themselves in which I can choose gratitude instead of a complaint.
Recently, my wife and I along with our dog were driving in California when we made a pit stop at a McDonalds. As we were leaving we saw a man who was experiencing homelessness. He had a dog with him. The gentleman’s left leg had been amputated at the knee, he had an artificial limb. You could tell he had not showered for awhile. His dog was sleeping, he was reading a book under a tree, and it looked like all of his possessions were in a big backpack.
My wife decided we were going to help him; we gave him food and bones for his dog and some money so that he could buy food for himself. I approached him and introduced myself to him and asked him if I could give his dog a bone, some food, and money for himself. The expression on his face was priceless; it was as if he had won the lottery. He kept thanking me. He was kind, personable and talkative. I wondered when the last time someone had talked him. To many the homeless are invisible. He told me his name, we chatted for a bit, I asked him to pray for me, and I would do the same for him.
As we pulled away and got back on the freeway, he kept waving to us, he was wiping tears from his eyes. A person, who had so little, was so full of gratitude, a person, me; that has so much, felt like an ingrate. It hit me like a ton of bricks; I knew that I had to work on this aspect of my life.
Nouwen writes: gratitude…goes beyond the “mine” and “thine” and claims the truth that all of life is a pure gift. In the past I always thought of gratitude as a spontaneous response to the awareness of gifts received, but now I realize that gratitude can also be lived as a discipline. The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy.
We are living in some very difficult and trying times: Covid-19, racial tensions, and economic uncertainty to name a few. Our call as followers of Jesus is we are invited to live in gratitude because we are ultimately blessed by God through Jesus Christ. We as Christians know how the story ends, and it is in the eternal love and peace with God in heaven. If we cannot be joyful and filled with gratitude as Christians, even with our aches and pains, then how can we expect that from others? We are called to be role models to the world of what it means to be joyful and grateful.
So, the next time someone asks you or me how are you doing, because we are rooted in joy and gratitude, based, not on circumstances, but on the assurance of God’s unconditional love, poured out on the cross; we can respond with positive confidence and conviction: “Never Better!”