Stories & Commentaries

Appreciation Never Expires

Gratitude is a gift that can be given at any time.                       

stock photo of elderly woman holding thank you note

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“This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15, NKJV).

It’s always encouraging to hear the words “thank you.” We love feeling appreciated and also hearing it expressed. There’s a good reason for our affection towards appreciation, it’s built into our DNA — we received the trait from our heavenly Father.

Everything our God has done for us, from creation to salvation, and all the promises of an eternal future of peace in His kingdom, was done out of His love for us — and His desire that we love Him in return through a spirit of obedience and thankfulness. Our God loves to receive adoration and praise emanating from a heart of gratefulness; and for us humans, created in His image, it’s encouraging and uplifting to hear a sincere thank you.

Expressing our thanks has no expiration date. I discovered this after expressing my gratitude to my former neighbor for her unselfish act of Christian kindness towards me a long time ago.

I sent her a thank you card expressing my profound appreciation and it touched her heart and brought tears of joy. She had forgotten all about it, which is understandable when you consider she had no children at the time, yet received my card as a retired grandmother more than 45 years later.

I enlisted in the military shortly after the incident and later joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church. She and her husband moved to another city and expanded their family, so the distance and the years just seemed to multiply so rapidly. My mother, who has kept contact over the years, informed me that she had written a book and gave me the address to make a purchase. As I was addressing the envelope this question popped up in my mind: Did I ever really thank her for her unselfish act of kindness so many years ago? I was taught as a child to say “thank you,” but I wondered if as a youth I had really expressed my gratitude.

I decided to enclose a thank you card with the payment and a copy of an article I started drafting about the incident in hopes that it would encourage those who work so quietly for Christ behind the scenes, or on the COVID-19 front lines, seemingly unappreciated. The card apologized for the 45-year delay and thanked her for allowing God to use her as an instrument in saving my life. I also enclosed with the card an article I wrote, “Heroes Before the Pandemic — A Testimonial,” which I share below.

A Close Call

It seems as though the world is just coming to the realization that health care professionals are heroes on the front lines of the battle to save lives. But I was aware of that fact long before the coronavirus, as I reflect upon how, as a young man, God used two nurses to save me.

I recall being awakened early one morning by an excruciating pain in my abdomen unlike anything I’d ever experienced. I tried to bear it until strong stomach convulsions and intense gagging convinced me that I needed help. I thought to myself, I need something for a stomach ache but there’s nothing here.

Realizing I was home alone, I peered out my window hoping my neighbor, Phyllis Smith, was home from her night shift as a nurse. Seeing her car, I hurried over to catch her before she went to bed. As she answered the door I apologized and asked, “Do you have something for a stomach ache?”

With a puzzled look, she noticed her usually energetic young neighbor now leaning against her door frame for support. Then she asked, “Are you sure you just have a stomach ache?” Then she instructs, “Go get in my car, I’m taking you to the doctor!” After an examination by the local doctor I was referred to Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, where we were met by my mother, Mable. She expressed her gratitude for what our kind neighbor had done for her son; then Phyllis departed for some much-needed rest.

Grady Memorial is an extremely busy public hospital in the heart of downtown with a segregated past, so seeing the horde of people already there, I resolved to lean my head on my mother’s shoulder for a long agonizing wait. [I’m a child of the Jim Crow era, and I’m also what the locals would call a “Grady Baby,” born there under its segregation policies, but today I see different races in the same room, all mostly poor, however, economic status has not been an equalizer, particularly in the deep South.]

Suddenly, as I stared at the floor, a pair of white shoes, white stockings, and the hem of a white dress stopped in front of us. I glanced up as a Caucasian nurse says to my mother, “Ma’am, he looks like he’s in a lot of pain, let him come on back with me.”

After a quick examination, appendicitis was the diagnosis and an emergency operation performed. Upon awakening, my doctor said, “That was a close call, your appendix ruptured, which could have been fatal had you not gotten here in time.”

I’m so thankful my God is in control, knowing time was not on my side He impressed upon the minds of two nurses, one Black, one White, to extend my young life. It took a caring neighbor who was not too sleepy or grumpy to notice a young man needed life-saving intervention and drove more than 50 miles roundtrip after getting off the night shift. I had requested medication, but to just satisfy my request and send me on my way may have had dire consequences for me.

It took a caring Grady staff member who, though busy tending to other equally-deserving people, stopped to take notice of a young man in pain and took me into her care. To allow me to wait my turn would have been fair to everyone, but probably disastrous for me. I bear a surgical scar that reminds me of caring health professionals saving lives long before the coronavirus and a loving Savior whom the Apostle Paul declared long ago, “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners…,”1 like me.

Expressing Appreciation

Those reflections brought joy to Phyllis more than 45 years later because appreciation never expires.

I’d love to express my appreciation to the kind Grady nurse, for her providential life-saving act of kindness. She defied my mindset at the time, and played a pivotal role in God’s plan to extend my life. I pray she’s enjoying a healthy retirement with family and close friends.

I encourage you to please reach out today, and thank someone whom the Lord has used as an instrument of blessing in your life. Overdue gratitude can be delayed for many reasons and not necessarily because the recipients of your kindness are ungrateful. Like myself, who God worked on patiently, using, “hammer and chisel He cuts away the rough edges”2 from one taken “from the quarry of the world,”3 to polish for His use.

The inspired pen of Ellen G. White encourages “quiet workers” who labor unrecognized with these precious words, “In the heavenly courts, when the redeemed are gathered home, this class will stand nearest to the Son of God.”4

— James L. Reid is National Service Organization Director, South Atlantic Conference of Seventh-day Adventist in Decatur, Georgia.

1. 1 Tim. 1:15       

2. The Upward Look, p. 372.

3. Ibid. p. 373.

4. Ibid. p. 186.