“..in everything give thanks ”

(1 Thess 5:18; D&C 98:1)

In Luke 17 we read of the healing of the ten lepers, of whom only one returned to thank Christ for the healing that had occurred. I have always had a sneaking sympathy for the other nine. I’ve always presumed they were simply obeying the command to show themselves to the priest. I probably would have been one of those nine: later, once the cleansing had been officially recognised by the priest and I’d been restored to normal society, I may have sat down and thought, I need to say thank you. And perhaps the opportunity would have been lost.

Those nine lepers are not the only ones to have been in that predicament, should they have felt it. Sometimes on a Saturday morning, whilst performing household chores, I listen to the BBC R4 programme Saturday Live. It’s an eclectic mix of bits and pieces, discussions and interviews, but there is one particularly heart-warming feature. Every week three people are given the opportunity to say thank you to someone or some group of individuals who have helped them in the past; to thank those who’ve done things “for which you wish you’d expressed proper gratitude” at the time, or to thank “the anonymous people who’ve done you a good turn but whom you’ve never been able to acknowledge or repay”. There are some lovely stories, ranging from events that happened over 50 years ago to the much more recent:

  • The woman who wanted to thank the cyclist who had helped her when back as a ten year old living in a national park, cycling home from visiting her friends as dark approached, and stricken with terror at the prospect of having to to cycle up the dark fell road to her home. A passing cyclist hung back from the group he was with and after understanding her fear cycled alongside her until she was in sight of her home, at which point she had shot off after pointing out her destination without a word of thanks.
  • The final year student who had driven off leaving her nearly completed dissertation, and accompanying notes on the roof of her car, who four days later, in her department library, was given an envelope containing the dissertation and every last scrappy piece of paper she had lost, and which contained a cryptic note that her guardian angel had been watching.
  • The woman waiting at a bus stop late at night with a man catching a different bus. He was concerned for her safety, and as he boarded his bus pushed enough money for her to get a taxi home into her hand. She did get a taxi, as her bus was clearly very delayed.
  • The woman who wanted to thank those on the cliff top who had notified the coastguard when they’d spotted her daughter and friend had been cut off by the tide on the beach below.
  • The man who wanted to thank the quick-thinking truck driver who’d saved him from a very nasty road accident. He had just begun overtaking the truck and had reached the rear wheels when the truck driver indicated and began to pull out himself. Cursing he braked and pulled back in behind the truck to discover he’d narrowly missed a collision with an oncoming fast moving car in the other lane.
  • The woman who wanted to thank the girl who’d given her elderly husband her hat, scarf and gloves at Gatwick airport, while he’d been waiting for his wife who’d gone off to try to make a hotel reservation. They’d just returned from a holiday somewhere warm to find that sudden snowy weather at home meant the taxi they’d booked hadn’t been able to get out to pick them up, and they were not dressed for the freezing conditions.

The stories are generally available from roughly 1 hour 18 minutes into the programmes. Episodes available here, for anyone wishing to listen to any.

I was set thinking about those I should have thanked in my life. I was a rather socially awkward child and teenager, and definitely bad at gracious acceptance of assistance or gifts from others. I still find graciousness hard.

Who would you like to thank?

To set the ball rolling, I’d like to say a big thank you to the music teacher couple and others who ran the weekly youth music activities (orchestra, choir, concert band, brass group, string orchestra) entirely voluntarily, in which I participated for many years. That legacy has enriched my life hugely.