Recently, a family came to The Weigh Station to address their weight issues. They expressed how we had helped in the past and how blessed they were that we were still around to help them now. The father said to me, "I'm so thankful that I have somewhere to go to help my family with our struggle with our weight." I liked his statement of thankfulness.
What exactly does it mean to be thankful? This can have different meanings to different people. One example of this is when patients come in for their weekly visit and are happy that they have lost one pound. Despite wanting to lose more, they are thankful for their loss and the assistance and support they received from our staff. They could have thought negatively about this, but instead they were able to put things in perspective and remain grateful.
Then there are times that I’m thankful. This past week I spoke with a woman who had been unsuccessful for about 6 to 8 weeks. She kept telling me she had been following the program perfectly and that she only ate what was in the book-- never strayed. Her young daughter stood up and said, "But mom, what about the oranges and bananas you were eating every day?" Yes, I was thankful for the truth coming from that little child!
Some believe being thankful includes hugging one another and slapping a high five. Support and celebration are wonderful things. Life is short and we should celebrate these moments, however true thankfulness has a much deeper meaning. Many of you don't know, but in 1996, I had brain surgery at the Mayo Clinic for a ruptured AVM. That stands for arteriovenous malformation. It's a genetic fault in some individuals and I happen to be one of the individuals that it faulted. So, I was on the organ harvest list because after it had ruptured, they knew I was going to die. However, God had other plans for me. There's not a day goes by that I'm not deeply thankful for walking upright.
Gratitude is the way God reveals his incredible grace at work in our lives. Being grateful is to see God, and the world, and ourselves and to recognize that all of life is a gracious gift from his hand. I am learning to develop gratitude for everything. Even when I'm tempted to grumble about helping Terri at the house or taking out the garbage, I've learned to say, “God, thank you that I can pick up the garbage can and carry it to the street.”
In Corrie Ten Boom's book, The Hiding Place, she recalls thanking God for fleas in her barracks in a concentration camp during the World War II. Corrie had learned that fleas kept the guards away which allowed her and the others to study the Bible without interruption. In Ravi Zacharias' book, Walking East to West, he talks about a young Vietnamese boy who is given the job of cleaning latrines since he was a prisoner. He had been Dr. Zacharias’ interpreter as he ministered to the soldiers. After Dr. Zacharias left the country, the boy is thrown into prison. He felt that God had just forgotten about him. He knew that if he just renounced his Christianity the next morning, he would have a lighter sentence and probably would even be let go. But he would not, so he had to clean the latrines.
While cleaning out the toilets, this boy happened to notice a piece of paper hanging out of the corner of the trash can, covered with fecal material. He noted it was in English and realized that it was a chapter out of Romans in the Bible. He picked it up, cleaned it up, washed it off, stuck it in his hip pocket and took it back to his room and read it by flashlight. Romans chapter 8 read, "For there is for this reason now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit.” He continued to read chapter 8 up to verse 18, which said, "…for I know that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared the glory which shall be revealed in us". Each day he asked to clean the latrines because the Vietnamese Col. was using the King James Bible as toilet paper! It's amazing how God will meet you if you just learn to become thankful!
I wish many of our patients would be thankful and proud of what they have accomplished. Many have lost 50, 80,100, or 200 pounds, and this is truly commendable. I wish more patients would be willing to share those types of success stories! They would be joyous and happy, ready to bless others with their success. But so many of them don't; they feel their accomplishments are not good enough. As much as we try to encourage them, some people just don’t seem to be able to get excited about what they've achieved.
Try as best as you can to be thankful for each and everything that comes your way (as insignificant as it may seem, it matters). Be thankful for the weight that you have lost. Congratulate others as they go through the journey also. Be supportive of those around you. Maybe do something as small as hold the door for someone as they carry groceries or load them in the trunk of their car. Maybe you've been financially blessed and could pay for someone else's office visit, or buy them a meal.
If you're thankful for something, say so. Everyone likes to feel appreciated and to say thank you is one way you can convey that activated thankful heart. Thank you all for the privilege of caring for you. Life is an echo. What you send out comes back. What you sow, you reap. What you give, you get. What you see in others exists in you. Remember, life is an echo. It always gets back to you. So give out as much as you wish to receive..
Chuck Shaffer MD