By Stephen C. Schultz
The wall approached quicker than expected! The light tapping on the brakes did little to slow the momentum! Fortunately there was a slight increase in slope and the car slid to a stop. Pushing the ignition button and simultaneously pulling on the door handle, with a bump of my left shoulder I slid from the front seat and balanced myself on the icy parking lot.
My two colleagues stepped out of the car and didn’t seem to think twice or even notice that we literally slid into our parking spot. The three of us gingerly stepped up onto the curb and moved along the walkway to the door. We awkwardly shuffled each step along the icy surface.
Our purpose in this adventure was a trip to RedCliffAscent to have a discussion with the clinical team about treatment plans and documentation. This particular stop along the way was to get ourselves some breakfast at a rural McDonalds just off the interstate since we were half way through a four hour drive.
We stepped through the door and made our way to the counter to place our orders. It was the usual breakfast fare that you find at any McDonalds. After the orders were placed and paid for, I stepped back away to wait. Standing next to the counter that housed the straws, napkins, condiments and soda pop machine, I signed into my email on my phone to check for messages.
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the next person in line step to the counter. She was dressed in baggy sweat pants and bundled up in a thick hoodie. She had some black snow boots on and a scarf around her shoulders. She placed her order and paid with a plastic card of some kind. There was some discussion going on that I didn’t pay much attention to. Then, as I was looking at my phone, it registered that someone was saying,
“Sir? Sir? Can you help me pay for my breakfast?”
I looked up, then I looked behind me. I wasn’t sure if the woman was talking to me or not. I glanced at the woman taking the order and she quietly mentioned to me that the amount on the woman’s Food Assistance Card was a few dollars short. There were others in line waiting to place orders. The woman working at the cash register simply wanted to close out the sale and place the order. The woman in need of a few dollars simply wanted to get her breakfast. I reached in my pocket and quietly stepped forward with a five dollar bill and handed it to the woman taking the order.
My colleagues and I got our food and headed on our way. I’m glad to report there was no more slipping and we managed to make it to the car without incident! The next couple of hours were filled with some light discussion and a lot of thinking on my part. I started thinking about that woman in McDonalds. What circumstances had conspired over her lifetime to get her to the point of using a Food Assistance Card in a McDonalds in rural America next to an interstate exit. There are obviously lots of questions and very few answers.
I was overcome with a sense of gratitude. I felt gratitude for the way I was raised. I was taught to cherish “Moments” over “Merchandise”. I felt gratitude for my job, family and faith. I started thinking about how difficult it would be to manage this earthly experience without Faith in a loving God who simply wants us to return to a heavenly home. Without an eternal perspective, this life’s struggles would seem cruel and pointless. It is only when our faith communicates to us that we are strangers confined within the boundaries of “time” that we practice the virtues of patience, hopefulness, courage and determination to weather the storms of life’s experience. I was reminded of a story shared by author C. S. Lewis;
“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace.” ~ C. S. Lewis
As Americans spend time together with families and friends this Thanksgiving, please be aware that gratitude can be exercised year round and in any country across the globe. As my daughter says, we can all demonstrate an “Attitude of Gratitude” and be thankful for the small things that we come in contact with everyday.
I sincerely wish everyone a wonderful Holiday Season!