Poke. Poke. Poke! “Stop … hitting me!” I impatiently requested of my wide-eyed, 7-year-old brother. I squeezed my shoulders in tighter to avoid contact with my other brother’s car seat. The vehicle was cramped enough without having a small child trying his best to find the open spaces between my ribs. In an effort to take my mind off of the activity going on beside me, I turned as far to the left as my seat belt would allow. The tip of my nose found its resting place on a cold, hard window, and my breath made a circular spot right underneath. I stared for a moment. Raindrops had started sliding down the glass. Since it seemed that there was nothing better to do, I watched them make their peculiar paths.
The poking continued. I turned to face my brother, ready to snap, but my dad turned around before I could say anything too mean. Instead, I scanned the gray interior of our rental van. With a pouty look on my face, I thought about how the man on the phone had promised us a six-passenger, full-size van. It turned out to be a four-passenger minivan that couldn’t hold the six members of our family and our luggage at the same time. Rolling my eyes with annoyance, I rotated to face the window. When my eyes opened, the sight outside startled me. There was a child standing literally three inches from my face; the only thing separating us was that thin sheet of glass.
The car had come to a halt at the red light. The little black boy with tiny tufts of hair all over his head was just standing there in the middle of the street. His clothes were ripped here and there, and they were two sizes too small. His once-white tank top had probably never been washed and was now a nasty tan color.
We were nose-to-nose, eye-to-eye, staring at each other. The rain began to fall again, but this time I watched it run down a smooth, unweathered, innocent little face and drip onto his shoulders, only to be soaked up by his tattered excuse for a shirt.
I desperately did not want to face the reality of why he had come up to the car. Without looking away from his big, sad, brown eyes, I said: “Daddy, look. It’s a little boy.” Daddy turned around, and as soon as he saw the boy, a wave of sadness manifested itself in his expression. I knew what my father was about to say: “That poor boy has to beg for money so that he can eat. You had better be thankful for all God has given us.”
I looked at the little boy intently. He had pressed his face up against the car window. With his small, round nose smashed to the glass, and his hands plastered against it on each side of his head, he darted his eyes around the car, trying to get a glimpse of the many blessings I had so easily overlooked. He tilted his head to the side and looked straight at me. Then with one last, longing expression, he hung his head and walked away. I was so ashamed.
Tears flooded my eyes. How could I have been so unthankful? I could just as easily have been born with that little boy’s life and not the luxury-filled one that I lead today.
That was at a Feast in South Africa in 2005. I was 11 years old and quite selfish, but that incident changed the way I looked at life. Living the rich lifestyles that we take for granted in America can make us begin to feel entitled to things—just like I felt entitled to a bigger, nicer vehicle—but we should not think that way. It has all been given to us, and it can all be taken away just as easily, especially now in this end time. Mr. Gerald Flurry has even warned us to be prepared to lower our standard of living because it is not always going to be rainbows and butterflies like it is now.
In the Church, we not only have many physical blessings from God, but we also have His truth and His protection. We have the hope of the World Tomorrow that is coming so soon.
Whenever I feel down and discouraged, I always try to count my blessings. It actually does work! If you are sad like I was, it might be a result of selfishness and ingratitude. You cannot be unhappy if you are truly thankful. If that little boy had the blessings and truth we have, he would never be unthankful.
As sad as that story is, God used it to teach me a lesson about gratitude. And maybe one day in the World Tomorrow, when we are teaching all the people, He will let me scoop that little boy up in my arms, squeeze him tight, and tell him that I love him—that everything is going to be OK, and that there are people out there who want the best for him. I’ll share the hope we have with him. And I will thank him for the valuable, life-changing lesson he taught me about being thankful.