Where Are the Nine?

by Don Meyer, Ph.D. | Nov 28, 2015

“When you stop counting your blessings, it is like holding yourself and being surprised that everything is black.”
Ann Voskamp

Last week I introduced you to Ann Voskamp. In her words, “My name is plain and simple Ann, without even the fanciful ‘e.’ I’m a farmer’s wife with a happy mess of six kids, a crazy camera and a bunch of books that landed on The New York Times best-seller lists.”

The message Evie and I heard her share and the insights from her book, “One Thousand Gifts,” have made a huge impact on our lives. Voskamp eloquently said, “Grab your pen like a sword” to write down your list of things for which to be thankful. So I have been doing that.

The purpose for making our list is actually quite personal. The list is made to help us focus on personal gratitude. Our whole perspective changes when we count our blessings. And with Thanksgiving Day just around the corner, picking up our pen to make our list might be one of the best things we would do to enhance our whole view on life.

Although my list on my way to 1,000 is not yet too long, I have already been inspired. From blue morning glories curled around a bird house in our front yard, to mums and pumpkins at Colonial Gardens, and from sitting on our back porch or having an evening at the Movie Tavern with Evie, my pen sees things my eyes miss. 

My list goes on: sunlight on a UVF mug; a birthday celebration at The Melting Pot in Minneapolis with family; recognizing the help of a true friend, Rev. Philip Bongiorno; eating a hot dog at O’Hare Field, the Chicago airport; and talking with Evie over Saturday morning breakfast in our favorite place, the sitting room here in the old Chester County former farmhouse.

One of the great Bible stories for Thanksgiving is recorded in the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 17. Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem and he entered a village between Samaria and Galilee. Ten lepers met him.

In those days lepers would cry out, “Unclean; unclean.”  If their heads rested anywhere it was declared unclean. Everyone made sure no less than 6 feet would come between the leper and anyone else. If a gust of wind came from that direction, 100 feet was hardly enough.

One rabbi wouldn’t eat an egg that was purchased on a street where there was a leper. Another rabbi boasted that he always threw stones at them to keep them far off while others hid themselves or ran away. 

But Jesus spoke a word to them and healed. All 10 of them moved away from Jesus but one of them chose to come back to say thank you.

And as he came to return thanks, Jesus asked this question, “Where are the other nine?” Those nine received an equal blessing and quickly moved on without even a thought of coming back to say thanks. 

That is one of the most haunting questions for all of life, not just the month of November. 

I would contrast the words of Andy Rooney and Henri J.M. Nouwen. Rooney once said, “Thanksgiving is one of the most boring of all the holidays. The most exciting event of the day is carving the turkey.”

Nouwen said, “Gratitude is a response to grace. The compassionate life is a grateful life, and actions born out of gratefulness are not compulsive but free, not somber but joyful, not fanatical but liberating. When gratitude is the source of our actions, our giving becomes receiving and those to whom we minister become our ministers.”

My list toward 1000 continues as I wield my pen like a sword cutting through what doesn’t matter for that which really does.

“Where are the other nine?”

Think about it.

Dr. Don Meyer is President of  
University of Valley Forge, Phoenixville, Pa. 
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