All stories copyright 2006 Bob Perks
"The Thankful Chair"
by Bob Perks
"I have so much to be thankful for. I wouldn't know where to
begin," she said.
I wouldn't know either. As I looked around her home I couldn't find a
thing that she could include.
I have discovered that the friendliest, most welcoming people in
the world are those who have little to offer. What they lack in
possessions they make up for in spirit and love.
I had been working for the Commission on Economic Opportunity.
It was the year following the flood. My job was to interview low income
families and assess their needs. Up until that moment I thought I had
seen it all. The odd thing was I was looking at nothing at all and this
woman was thankful.
The home had actually been out of the flood area, yet it looked like it
had been a part of the destruction. The front porch steps were missing,
replaced by a few cinder blocks and planks. There were several broken
windows and part of the foundation had caved in exposing the basement to the weather.
That particular day it was in the upper thirties with a heavy wind blowing snow from the west.
Thanksgiving Day was approaching and quite frankly my heart
was not into doing these surveys. Like many others, I just wanted to
start my holiday early. This was the last stop for me. Tomorrow like millions of
other families we would be snuggled around the table filling ourselves to capacity.
Oddly I hadn't even thought about what this family was looking
forward to. I just figured they would be taken care of by some
organization or church. I looked around the kitchen for some sign
of a charitable box of goodies but saw nothing there.
The house was bitter cold. The young children ran several times
through the kitchen playing, laughing like any other child. I happened
to notice that they were bare foot on this cold linoleum floor.
At one point I said to one of the youngest girls, "You should go put
your socks and shoes on before you get sick."
She replied, "Mommy did this man bring me some shoes I can wear?"
"No, Sissy. He didn't. Go put on a pair of mine. He's right you
need something on your feet."
I was embarrassed for having put her in that position.
"Well, I'm finished here. Thank you for your time. I hope you have
a wonderful...." I didn't know what to say. How could they possibly
have a wonderful anything.
"Look, I'm sorry. I know there must not be much to be thankful for
these days," I said nervously.
"Well, you certainly are wrong about that!" she said emphatically.
Then rising to her feet she walked into the living room and stood in the middle.
"My dear, I am truly blessed for all of this. I know it doesn't look
like much. But who made the rules that say that we can only be
thankful for things that cost money?" she said.
"Sit here on this chair," she told me. "That chair may be worthless
even to a junk dealer. But I sat in that chair and waited for months when
my son was in the war. That was my worry chair. I sat in that chair,
prayed and gave thanks when the good Lord brought him safely home to me.
It was in that same chair I was sitting in when they announced that John F.
Kennedy was dead. I wept in that chair. It was in that same chair I was sitting
when my daughter came home from school and told me she was going to
college cause she got a full scholarship. It was my joyful chair.
It was also in that chair that I sat holding my Daddy's hand when he died. They
had sent him home telling us there was nothing more they could do. He wanted
to be at home. I ate, slept and cried as I sat in that chair holding his hand. He was all
the world to me when I was growing up. I owed him that much.
So how much is that chair worth in dollars? Nothing. But I wouldn't trade it," she said.
Then walking over to a picture on the wall she said "You see this man? He's my man.
He's the man that has loved me for all these years. He's at work now. He doesn't make
much but he works hard for it. He paid for that chair in sweat. How much money value
do I put on him? There isn't enough money in all the world for the true value of love."
"Those kids out in the yard. Yeah, maybe someone would say I'm not a good parent.
But you go and ask them if they love their Mommy and Daddy. Then tell me how much
that is worth," she said.
Then walking closer to where I was seated she looked down at me and said, "I'm
thankful for my sight, the touch of my baby's hand on my face. I am thankful that I have
good health considering everything else. I am thankful for my faith. Oh, how thankful I am
that I have something to believe in. I am thankful for the smell of hot biscuits and honey on
Christmas morning. I am thankful for the second hand quilt the lady down the street gave me yesterday."
Then tilting her head and cupping her ear she said, "Listen....do you hear that?
That's laughter. My kids are laughing as they are playing with all the other kids in the
neighborhood. How much would you pay to find something to laugh about when things
aren't so good?"
Grabbing my briefcase, I stood up and walked toward her.
"So my dear. Should I go on? There is so much more I am thankful for that most
people take for granted."
"No." I said. "Thank you."
"Oh sir," she said. "One more thing."
She walked over to the chair and sat down.
"I call this my "Thankful Chair". Tomorrow when we gather round the table to
share whatever meal God will provide, and he always provides, I will be thankful that
He had sent you here to talk to me," she said smiling.
"I believe that one day I will find that priceless," I said and walked out the door.
I was right.
"I believe in You!"
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