Thursday, April 13, 2006

Guyana - April, 2006

Nearly two months ago, “Scottie” – a member of my church – developed a serious blood infection in his left foot. The disease traveled quickly through his leg, and within a matter of days Scottie had to make an important life-changing decision: amputate or die. The thought of losing a leg was troubling, but Scottie had enough perspective to know that life with no leg was better than no life at all. And so, after a few hours in the operating room – Scottie’s leg was gone.

Scottie has every reason to be bitter about life: he lost a leg, and with that he lost a variety of life opportunities. No longer can he walk along the road. No longer can he ride a bicycle. No longer can he play football or cricket. No longer can he swim in the creek. No longer can he walk up stairs to visit friends or family. Scottie cannot afford a wheelchair, and even if he could, the gravel roads and various potholes make it nearly impossible to move. Before the operation, Scottie had two legs, a decent job, and the ability to spend time with others – but now is a different story. He is handicapped. He is limited. He is dependant. If there is anyone who deserves to be angry about life – Scottie is the one.

I visited Scottie in the hospital about twice a week for the past two months, and I must admit, it has not been an easy ordeal. The local hospital is a dreary place, dirty in appearance and depressing in spirit. The atmosphere is miserable, and there are many days I wish to avoid going inside. However, what I found amazing about the past months was that – each and every time I visited – I never saw Scottie in a bad mood. Never! He was never sad. He was never angry. He was never bitter. While I often dreaded walking into that hospital, nothing seemed to bother Scottie. And not only that, instead of focusing on the amputation of his leg, he constantly celebrated his second chance at life. Rather than obsessing over what he had lost, Scottie kept giving thanks for what he had gained. He kept telling me: “Don’t feel sorry for me. I’m alive! I’m well!”

Three days ago Scottie was finally allowed to leave the hospital, and this morning was the first time I visited his home. Scottie lives in a broken-down one-room wooden shack, and in many ways it is more uncomfortable than the hospital. And while my initial reaction was to feel sorry for him once again, I simply could not, for I again I stood in awe of his positive attitude and jovial spirit. Instead of being depressed about the way his life was altered, Scottie was totally overjoyed to be resting at home. Once again, instead of thinking about what he had lost – Scottie kept reveling in what he had gained. Over and over again, he thanked God for sparing his life and he “could not wait” to get back to church.

I believe Scottie taught two major lessons during the past months. First, he taught me that attitude is something we choose. Attitude is not an emotion that comes and goes depending upon the situation or environment, but rather, attitude is something chosen on a day-to-day basis. Each day we choose whether or not we want to be thankful, and each day we choose whether or not we want to be positive and encouraging. Scottie proved this firsthand. Secondly, Scottie reminded me that the things we receive each day are often the first things we forget to give thanks for. Personally, I can’t remember the last time I thanked God for my two legs. I can’t recall the last time I gave thanks for my ability to walk down the street, drive a car, or climb stairs. In fact, I don’t know if I have ever given thanks for my two legs! Yet, thanks to Scottie and his ability to choose an amazing and positive attitude, I have been reminded that just because we receive something each day doesn’t mean we should take it for granted.

For me and for many others, the most frequent blessings are often the most likely to be ignored and unappreciated. Things such as: friends, family, food, clothing, health, and shelter – these are all blessings we receive each day – yet how many of us truly take the time to acknowledge them and give thanks? Living in Guyana has taught me many things, but one of the most important lessons I have learned is that nothing should be taken for granted and we choose an “attitude of gratitude” by giving thanks for each and every blessing we receive. Simply put, everything we receive is a gift – and we cannot lose sight of that.

With that being said, I wish to thank you for something I receive each day: your support and your prayers. Your continued love and encouragement is something I deeply cherish, and I ask for your continued prayers in the times ahead. Each day brings new struggles and challenges, but knowing that you are “walking alongside me” in this journey gives me strength that I simply do not posses on my own. Thank you for everything. I love you, and I couldn’t do this without you.

I look forward to hearing from you.

With peace and love in Jesus’ name…