Be This Guy
There’s a story in the Bible about gratitude that has always stuck with me. Jesus was headed to Jerusalem, walking along the border of Samaria and Galilee. He came to a village and encountered ten men with leprosy. Leprosy is caused by bacteria, and if untreated, can cause deformity, crippling, and blindness. It still exists today. What you have to understand about the disease at that time is people with leprosy were considered unclean and cast out from society. This was because the disease was thought to be highly contagious, and people tended to think that if you were sick, you must have done something to deserve it. You sinned, therefore God punished you by giving you leprosy. You had to stay away from your family and friends. You couldn’t get a job. And without a job, you had to beg if you wanted to eat. But, you were an outcast, so who’s going to give food or money to an unclean beggar? Hardly anyone. Basically, it was a lonely, miserable illness.
The men with leprosy called out to Jesus, asking him to heal them. He did, and told them to go show themselves to the priests, so it would be known they had been cleansed and could rejoin society.
It’s a compelling story, but here’s where it gets interesting to me. Only one of the men came back to say thank you.
One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.* Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”
Do you get the writer’s sarcasm here? “There were these ten guys, and not one of them came back to say thanks except this guy, and look at him, he’s not even one of us. He’s just this dude, from across the border.”
Here’s the question I ask myself: who am I in this story? Am I the person who skips off happily when somebody does something nice for me? Or do I take time to express my appreciation? I try to remember to be like the grateful guy rather than the others, though I don’t always succeed.
Still, whenever possible, I say thank you for the kind things people do, because no one’s required to be nice to me. Even our parents don’t have to be kind. In a world as dark as ours, sometimes parents don’t even like their kids, much less love them. (I’m blessed to have parents who love me and do nice things for me. Hi Mom and Dad.)
I’m a fan of handwritten thank you notes. Not for everything. I call or email to say thanks for things like birthday gifts, just because my family would think I was being ridiculously formal for sending a note. (Probably they’d think me pretentious as well.) But for some things, yes, I send a note.
This weekend I attended a book fair in Cannon Beach. Jupiter’s Books hosted 24 indie authors so we could chat with readers and boost our sales. This is no small thing for an independent bookstore to do. The owner gave us a generous cut on sales and invested who knows how many hours putting this event together, making sure it was widely advertised. I wrote him a thank you note because I truly appreciate him doing this for us. He doesn’t have to be so nice, but he is.
Sometimes I fear I say thank you too much. Is that possible? Maybe. In one note, I might say thanks three different ways. I can see how that could be annoying. I hope the recipient knows I’m being sincere. I am thankful, and I’d rather err on the side of gratitude, than let someone think I don’t appreciate a kind deed.
*Some things never change. People were pretty horrible to outsiders back then too. Samaritans were considered low-class people and it was taboo to associate with them. Really, the only person who was cool about Samaritans was Jesus. He often casts them as heroes in his stories.
© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2016