At the dawn of the Great Depression, William Stidger sat with a group of friends in a restaurant. All anyone could talk about was the depression. People suffered. Joblessness ran rampant, and the wealthy jumped from rooftops in despair.
In the group was a minister. “I don’t know what I’m going to do because, in two or three weeks, I have to preach a sermon on Thanksgiving Day. I want to say something affirmative. What can I say that’s affirmative in a period of world depression like this?”
Stidger had an insight. “Why don’t you thank the people who have blessed your life and affirm them during this terrible time?”
The preacher thought of a schoolteacher very dear to him. She had been his teacher of poetry and English literature. Years before, she instilled a great love of literature and verse in him. It bled through his writings and his preaching.
So he sat down and wrote a letter to this woman, now up elderly. He received a return letter in the feeble scrawl of the aged.
“My Dear Willy” began the letter. (Stidger says at that time, he was about 50 years of age and was bald, and no one had called him Willy for a long time.)
“My Dear Willy: I can’t tell you how much your note meant to me. I am in my eighties, living alone in a small room, cooking my own meals, lonely, and like the last leaf of autumn lingering behind. You’ll be interested to know that I taught in school for more than fifty years, and yours is the first note of appreciation I ever received. It came on a blue, cold morning, and it cheered me as nothing has done in many years.”
Stidger admitted to weeping over the note. He thought of a mentor, now retired, an old man who had recently faced his wife’s death and was all alone. So he sat down and wrote to the man. In two days, a reply came back.
“My Dear Will: Your letter was so beautiful, so real, that as I sat reading it in my study, tears fell from my eyes, tears of gratitude. Before I realized what I was doing, I rose from my chair, and I called her name to share it with her, forgetting she was gone. You’ll never know how much your letter has warmed my spirit. I have been walking around in the glow of your letter all day long.”
In the toughest of times, the antidote for depression and anxiety is thankfulness. That was what Paul counsels:
“do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6)
Think about the times we live in. It’s hard and has strained all. Perhaps, in this Thanksgiving season, a pen and paper might help. Take time and give thanks.
-Robert G. Taylor-