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Reminding us to be Thankful for Small Acts of Kindness and be Generous in Giving Kindness (11.14.18)

Published 11/14/2018

Friends and family gather to show respect. The sobs of the husband drift through the funeral parlor. Irma, the oldest daughter, is greeting each new arrival with fresh outbursts of tears. Dora, prostrate with grief, is helped to another room. Ellen, the youngest, has to do the million and one things that must be done.

“Everyone shows respect for the dead,” the small-town undertaker said. “But how many persons respect the living? Everybody manages to find the time and any expense needed now. But why can’t they do it while she could still enjoy a little attention? Do the survivors really feel an expensive casket and a massive display of flowers will buy relief from guilt feelings? I hope so, but it doesn’t fool anybody.

“I’ve got a man in the other parlor who had seven children, all living within a 10-mile radius. He’d been in a convalescent home for two years. But in the last year, his only visitor has been the man from the welfare department. The whole family is here showing their respect now. A couple of them are taking it pretty hard. But why didn’t they do something for him when they could?”

The truth of this is evident in any convalescent hospital as the thousands of lonely men and women lie there day after day without a single visitor. Death is a welcome relief to these ill, lonely, forgotten persons. But the mourners grieve with thoughts of what “I could have done” and “I should have done.”

A welfare worker, who specializes in helping the aged get medical care, echoed the undertaker’s feelings. “Medicaid is good,” he said, “but once they fill out the application, the family forgets about the old folks. These persons need more than just medicine; they need to know their families still care. So Mom or Pop makes you mad or sad when you visit? So what? At least you get to go home, and that visit means so much to them. I know these patients have sons and daughters. But I’m the only visitor some of these old persons have.” But the lonely are not only in convalescent hospitals, unable to drive because of failing eyesight, far from a bus line, they vegetate in apartments or homes. The family is too busy to call or visit until the “final act” and the realization that “I could have--.”

The husband hadn’t talked to his wife in two months because of an argument that seems trivial now. Irma had not seen her mother in four months, though she lives 10 miles away. Dora lived too far away to visit but now realizes she could have answered her mother’s letters. Ellen’s tears of grief are not as bitter as the tear of guilt, for she had respect for the living. Though this story happened in a small town, it is repeated in every city, in every state. For death is the only visitor who is never too busy to call!

A story that seems to bring it home to me is of two foster sons. They were taken in over 30 years ago and cared for as natural sons. Then, police say, Walter and Earl Scott repaid their foster parents by extorting the couple’s life savings—over $55,000—in the last two years of there foster parent’s life. The plot came to light, authorities said, when a suspicious bank employee notified police after the savings account of the elderly Bronx, N.Y., couple was all but drained. Police nabbed Walter, 37, and Earl, 36, at the home they still shared with the foster parents, aged 82 and 81.

The Scotts, biological brothers, used “physical intimidation” to force the retired couple to make huge withdrawals from the bank. “Sometimes, they took the father to the bank and forced him to sign withdrawal slips,” the police sergeant said. Other times, they went on their own, signing his name.” Police said the brothers were 5 and 6 when they originally were taken into the home.

They were tremendously blessed, yet they were un-thankful for the kindness. How many of us have been truly blessed, but constantly complain about a number of things, some real and some imagine.

Working in his office in Minneapolis, Jess Lair, 35, collapsed with a heart attack. He had been driving for success—and succeeding—in a job he hated. While in the hospital, the stricken executive reviewed his life and decided, “From now on I am never again going to do something that I don’t deeply believe in.”

Mr. Lair and his family shifted to simple living. He enrolled in graduate school and earned a PhD in psychology. Then the Lairs moved to Montana, where he found a teaching job at the state university. For his students, Jess Lair wrote the story of how his life was turned around. He called his book, “I Ain’t Much Baby—But I’m All I’ve Got.” It became a bestseller! He said in his book, some of his happiest days were going fishing with his son. They did not always catch fish, but they always caught love.

Don’t put off acts of love until it’s too late. It is my prayer you will be guided into a life of Thankfulness and a life that has avoided regrets. Let’s change Thanksgiving once a year into Thanks- Living all year long.