Thanks for the Mishaps

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August was odd for me. Pleasant things happened, of course, but I also had two inconvenient mishaps. First, while attending a week-long fiction workshop on the St. John’s College campus at Santa Fe, I had to rush to the emergency room at 5:00 a.m. for what turned out to be a severe, but blessedly brief, arthritis flare. In the absence of an available hospital room, I was in the emergency room that Friday from 5:00 a.m. until past 7:00 p.m. My fever and swollen joints (walking was impossible) moved the doctor to call for a specialist, but the specialist couldn't arrive until close to 7:00 p.m. It was that sort of a day.

Yet the blessings poured in. My longtime friend and colleague, Greg Wolfe, who was running the Santa Fe Conference, was minutes away when I needed him. He rushed me to the hospital, saw to my receiving good care, called my husband, and generally smoothed the way. Friends and colleagues from the conference (wonderful writers, editors, visual artists) showed up in the ER to keep me company. One brought fresh-cut sunflowers. Others brought funny get-well messages, wonderfully scrawled postcards, even a CD. My loving daughter, Sarah, flew from New Orleans to keep me company, pack my laptop, and book us into a hotel so we could stay for a Monday doctor’s appointment before returning home. The doctor himself was a blessing—he knew just what I had and what to do about it. (He also gave me a stern fatherly lecture about managing my own treatment.) Within two days I was free again. Sarah and I were touring the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum; lunching al fresco at an outdoor restaurant; admiring the Santa Fe architecture—the charm, the coherence of it all—the way the light falls over the mountains, the tiny desert flowers, the prickly cactus just there, down in a sort of arroyo.

And mishap number two? Ten days later, while I was innocently opening a car door in my own driveway, a tree branch fell on my head. I wasn’t knocked out or knocked off my feet; my eyeglasses, which flew off my nose, were retrieved in one piece from the ground. But I was bleeding and my head hurt. Blessedly, my husband was there to drive me to the nearby ER, where the doctor and nurse told me how fortunate I was that it wasn't worse. They put a few staples in my scalp so I could heal and mend.

After each of these brushes with destiny, my spirits soared. I resolved to count my blessings each day, every day. As days passed, I remembered more reasons to be glad. That Santa Fe emergency room nurse—Ramon?—I can’t remember his name. But I do recall how he warmed a blanket and brought it to me before I asked and that he ordered me lunch before I knew I was hungry. I recall that Santa Fe hospital caseworker who lent me her cell phone and brought me a vast, rumpled stack of good magazines; the Santa Fe doctor who phoned my home a week later to be sure I was ok; and the Louisiana emergency room doctor (part of mishap #2) who talked to me about C. S. Lewis as he stapled my head . . . not to mention the cards and emails flooding me with love and affection all through the crazy month of August.

Most of all, the text from the letter of James keeps coming to mind. Whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy (James 1:2, NRSV). I am grateful, Lord, for a lot of tiny blessings, blessings that add up to a roaring flood of lovingkindness. I am grateful for grace pushing up like wildflowers around the fallen tree branches and other strange mishaps of living. My list of blessings is longer than my arm—longer than I can count.

It’s not about the turkey. It’s not about the dressing. It’s about the gratitude.

Article by Emilie Griffin

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