This article originally appeared in LifeZette in November 2016, just ahead of Thanksgiving that year. LifeZette republishes it here to honor the Thanksgiving holiday coming up — and the worthy messages so worth sharing again.
Today, I experienced what I believe will be my greatest joy of the entire year: It was my privilege to take my dentist to lunch, during which we each had a bowl of chicken soup. Yup, my year has been made!
Not a lot could top this.
Now, you might be thinking, “This man must live a very mundane life.”
But you’ll understand my perspective by knowing the back story.
My dentist and I are longtime friends, and he does a great job of looking after my teeth. The doc is also a deep Christian thinker, and we’ve had many engaging conversations (though I will say it’s kind of hard to answer complex theological questions while lying near-flat with a drill in my mouth).
But what made this lunch so memorable was that my dentist friend just started eating again a couple of weeks ago.
Nearly a year ago, he was diagnosed with a malignant, inoperable tumor in his throat. Although a young 60 and otherwise strong, chemo and radiation took their toll. The outlook was very bleak for him, and whenever I would see one of his patients or mutual friends around town, we’d trade updates about what we knew of his condition. Many of us were praying fervently for him.
We heard all of his days were now spent in a state of uninterrupted pain.
When we learned he could no longer speak or take any food by mouth, our prayers intensified.
So you can imagine the joy that spread around town upon hearing that after many months, the doctor was going to survive and would even resume practicing dentistry.
Over lunch today — though his re-emerging voice had a certain croak to it — I was beyond happy. It was a high privilege to buy him a bowl of chicken soup — some of the first food he had taken by mouth in many months.
“I don’t know how people who don’t have God go through something like this,” he said to me.
As a wisp of steam drifted off a spoonful of soup, the doctor looked up and said, “Cancer taught me that every day of life truly is a gift from God.”
These words were a vivid reminder that we all have much for which to be grateful. Around the Thanksgiving table this year, let us hope that no one comes to blows over, say, political issues.
Regardless of what notch on the political spectrum people occupy, we must remember that family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers we barely know are all so much more important than petty squabbles around the dinner table, water cooler, or on social media.
As a pastor, I’ve been in many a hospital room with families as a loved one passes. I have listened to the dying whispers of more than a few people. I assure you that not one final will and testament I’ve ever heard dealt with politics. None.
No dying soul to whom I’ve attended ever mentioned elections, party platforms, or why Uncle Bob voted a certain way back in the day.
Instead, one’s dying moments are all about God or family — or both.
“What did I do for my Lord?” and “What did I do for my loved ones?” are what I hear.
These are the only thoughts on the minds of those fortunate enough to be conscious in their final moments.
And so, this Thanksgiving, though the issues of the day are very real, let us set them aside for a moment. May the good Lord move upon us as He did those first pilgrims.
Pilgrim Edward Winslow gave insight into the meaning of that first Thanksgiving: “Our harvest being gotten in, our Governor sent four men on fowling, so that we might, after a special manner, rejoice together … Many of the Indians came amongst us, and their greatest King, Massosoit, with some 90 men, who for 3 days we entertained and feasted … And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are far from want.”
This spirit of rejoicing was shared in 1621 by a group of pious folk who had suffered the loss of half their community to sickness and the elements in less than a year.
But it can still be said today: “By the goodness of God, we are far from want.” Rather than gloating or grousing or even talking politics at all this year — be very intentional about keeping the priorities in order.
Like my dentist friend, thank God for the gift of each day. Forget what’s happening in politics.
Be grateful for whatever’s on your plate.
And remember to love the people around you. We all really are so blessed.
Dr. Alex McFarland is a religion and culture expert, national talk show host, speaker, and author of 18 books, including “Stand Strong America.” He also serves as director of Christian Worldview and Apologetics at the Christian Worldview Center of North Greenville University in Greenville, South Carolina, and spent 20-plus years training teens and adults in the biblical worldview. This article appeared earlier in LifeZette.
The opinions expressed by contributors and/or content partners are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of LifeZette.