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Giving Thanks In 2007

November 20, 2007

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The lady in the little bakery shop did not know me, and I did not know her.  However as I reflect back on 2007 she holds a special place in my heart exactly because we did not know each other.

It was a sultry day in early August as James and I took a break from visiting at the Stevens Point hospital by taking a walk down the main street of their city.  It was once a bustling place, where as a boy I loved all the folks who strolled along with packages, doing so with a purpose in their steps.  But things were different now.  The huge mall that dominated the street once promising to bring vitality to the center of the city had instead only brought malaise.  Just a few others walked along slowly as we did that afternoon.  We looked in a few windows, and ambled along.   James and I had no desire to be there, and only our nervous energy fed our footsteps.

I spotted the little bakery that was located not far from the bookstore that I had spent money and time at as a teenager.  Inside the bakery, sweet smells made it seem that time had stopped.  They were the smells of everything that was still right with the world.  We looked over the plain donuts, jelly filled rolls, and others coated in sugar.  The lady behind the counter asked how we were doing, and noticed that we looked tired.  “These will perk you up,” she said as she pointed to the items in the glass cases.

James and I had been racing between Madison and Stevens Point for many days, sometimes packing an overnight bag, other times buying shirts and toiletries on the run so we could stay at a motel.  In the rush that day we had not even thought about stopping at a TYME machine.  And the bakery did not take cards.  My pockets had some loose change that I dug out and counted.  There were a few pennies in a container on the counter that I added to my coins to make it all work out.  I explained sheepishly that I was a bit frazzled, and offered my apologies for using her pennies to buy our sweets.

Seeing my discomfort James explained our time in Stevens Point was spent visiting a sick loved one in the hospital.  They talked for a minute, and she wished us well. We left the peaceful smells of that little shop, and walked back outside to a bench a few feet down the street to sit and eat.

I was pointing out to James all the changes to the shops along the street since I was a boy, when the lady from the bakery walks up to us with a small bag of goodies from the bakery.  She handed us the bag, told us we needed to stay strong, and that she would be praying that everything turned out fine.  And then she left and walked away.

Now I know on Thanksgiving we are to remind ourselves about all the things we are thankful for.  We usually list the country we are blessed to live in, those who love us, our good health, and all sorts of big themed ideas.  While all that is certainly true for me as well, I have often thought these past months about that single lady at the bakery, and how thoughtful she was to us.  A brief moment of her time, a gracious act on her part, and the lasting warmth it has on my life.

When logic and reason were missing in our summer of sadness and chaos, a complete stranger proved that there was still goodness and hope around us. Talk about something to be thankful for!!

After the upside down summer James and I have settled into a routine at our new residence in Madison.  As such, we walk a great deal for exercise and relaxation.  On these walks I have encountered a homeless lady that I see over and over again.  While there are many homeless folks in large cities, she just stood out for some reason.  The first time I saw her she was sitting on State Street with her back against a doorframe with her belongings scattered around.  I walked past her, but several yards later turned and walked back.  We had made eye contact as I had passed, and the sickly eyes were similar to others I had seen this year.  There was no way I could not have returned to her.  This time my pockets had cash in them, which I gave to her.

I see her often at night as I walk to meet James after his work at the college.  She sits on a bench near the Capitol and seems so alone.  She does not seem sad or angry but just lost, and somehow resigned to her fate.

I stop each time I see her on my walks and give her some money, though there is no recognition from her that we have ever met before.  And there need not be any. 

The lady does not know me, and I do not know her. 

It is just my way of saying thanks.

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