When I was 15-years-old, I got a little sick. In what was obviously an over-reaction on his part, my dad took me to the Emergency Room. As it turned out, I had pneumonia and my blood oxygen level was down to about 50%. If he had waited much longer to take me I might have died.
I share this with you so that you will understand why I am a little bit of a hypochondriac now. I don't freak out at every sneeze or obsessively lather myself in Purell. But whenever I have chronic problem, I begin to have a persistent fear of the worst.
For the past 4 weeks I've had a persistent cough. I cannot remember having one that has lasted this long. So of course, my mind helplessly gravitated to the worst case scenarios, despite the constant assurances from my long-suffering wife. After weeks of fretting, I went yesterday morning for a chest X-ray.
After they were taken, I was asked to wait for a moment alone in the exam room. I stood there for 5 minutes in that room with its claustrophobic white walls and antiseptic smell and thought about all those people who came to that room and got bad news that resulted in a lot more time between claustrophobic white walls and antiseptic smells.
Finally, after hours of fretting (and trying to distract myself with a viewing of Wreck-It Ralph) we got the results.
And what did they find?
They found nothing. I was worried about nothing.
I was put on some new medication and I've been feeling a bit better.
I didn't realize how much the storm clouds had been hovering over me until today. I was walking around, doing chores and errands with such a light heart. It was because I knew that my cough, though a bit annoying, was ultimately nothing.
Today is Thanksgiving. It has always been one of my favorite holidays, and not because I eat enough turkey to put a man twice my size into a literal coma (although that is a plus). I love that we take time out of our year to appreciate the blessings of life and give thanks to our Provider.
My boss, a man I greatly admire, once said to me that you cannot be truly happy unless you are truly thankful. Happiness only comes when you acknowledge that everything thing you have is a gift from God.
I have tried to take those words to heart and be thankful for everything I have. I have an holy wife, a loving family, loyal friends, a fulfilling job, and more action figures than you can shake a stick at (if that's your idea of a good time). Bing Crosby sang that we should count our blessings instead of sheep. But I never get to the end of count because God has been so very generous to me.
But all this time I have been overlooking something else to be thankful for.
I wrote earlier about how much I have come to realize what a blessing it is to feel normal. But I did not take it the necessary step further.
There is nothing wrong with my lungs. But it could have been something. And that something could have been not-so-bad to catastrophic. But God, in His goodness, gave me nothing.
About 2 years ago I was on the highway on my way to work in the middle of winter. I was in the left lane when I noticed a car had skidded off the road. I tried to get a better look, but I must have not been paying attention to the road. Because I then hit a patch of ice and my car spun out and did a 180 degree turn that hurled me across the other lane. And do you know what I hit?
For one of the only times I can remember, there were no cars around me on that part of the road. I skidded off to the right embankment facing the opposite direction. But I was fine. Nothing happened.
A few weeks ago during Hurricane Sandy, the wind was so strong it blew down a tree in my back yard. What did it hit?
A little to right and it would have destroyed my shed. If it fell in the opposite direction it would have caved in the roof and crushed my wife and I. But instead, nothing happened.
This world is so full of darkness and danger, disease and disaster. Some of it falls on us. But a lot of it doesn't.
So today I'm going to give thanks not only for the all of the things God has given me this past year, but I'll also praise Him for the "nothings" too.
No sudden falls down the stairs that break a limb. No food poisoning from that new restaurant. No angry student deciding to respond to his detention with his fist. No home burglary in the middle of the night. No careless accident to hurt anyone I love.
I do have my share of crosses, many of them of my own making, but I have not been crushed by them. And I am not saying that any of the aforementioned catastrophes won't one day be mine to bear. One day, an X-ray may find something.
But not today.
Today, I am thankful for nothing.