On Mother’s Day this year, just before I headed for the piano at church to practice with the worship team, my phone “binged,” alerting me I received a text on Facebook Messenger. I didn’t immediately recognize the name “Bailey,” but there was something vaguely familiar in the last name. This person asked if I was the same Jim Thornber who used to live in California, taught about the physical aspects of the crucifixion of Christ at a Bible study, and who later moved to Arkansas. Yep, that would be me.
As we continued to message, they said they wanted to contact me for two reasons. First, they wanted me to know that my sharing the Gospel with them was not a wasted effort. Although they didn’t accept Jesus as their Lord when I lived in California, they eventually did and have been a strong Christian for many years. Second, they wanted to say, “Thank you” for never giving up on them and having so much patience as they asked “so many questions.” As a bonus, I gained an old/new friend in my life, and I still like to say to Bailey, “Thank you for saying, ‘Thank you.’”
Last Sunday evening I received another “Thank you.” Johanna is a student at Southwestern Christian University, and heard me speak at the chapel in September. The theme of this semester’s chapel is “Lessons from the Dead,” so I read three chapters from my book Better with Every Breath, which shares some of the lessons I learned since my wife Barbara passed away in September, 2020. Johanna shared with me she is now putting up Post-It notes in her dorm room to remind her to ”choose joy,” which is a reference to one of the chapters I read. I told Johanna I was now crying, and thanked her for saying, “Thank you.”
As I was thinking about these two people who recently said “Thank you” for my influence in their life, my mind wandered over to Galatians 6:6, which says, “Those who are taught in the word of God should provide for their teachers, sharing all good things with them” (NLT). Although this verse may lean primarily towards providing finances for those who are teachers of the Word, there is another provision I’m thinking of today which cannot be purchased, and that is gratitude.
I understand how satisfying (and humbling!) it was when Bailey and Johanna said, “Thank you.” Now, in the two years since Barbara passed away, another lesson I’ve learned is to make a greater effort to express my gratitude to the people in my life while I still have them, for that hasn’t always been the case. Gratitude is such a great gift, and it only takes a moment to express my sincere thankfulness and appreciation to my mentors, teachers, and friends for the significant ways they have touched my life. It doesn’t cost us anything to say “Thank you,” and it is a gift anyone can give.
Finally, I like to remind myself that gratitude is a gift that gives twice. First, by sharing my gratitude with someone who has touched my life, it gives them a gift they cannot buy and, if they are anything like me, the effects will linger long after the words have been spoken. Second, gratitude increases my own joy and happiness, for it reminds me of all the treasures in my life money cannot buy. I’ve come to realize that I own only those things that cannot be taken from me, with gratitude and joy being at the top of that list.
May we all learn to be better givers and receivers in that beautiful exchange of gifts that says, “Thank you for saying, ‘Thank you.’”