Every morning when I wake up, before even getting out of bed I recite the traditional Jewish morning blessing: “I offer thanks before you, living and eternal King, for You have mercifully restored my soul within me; Your faithfulness is great.” Giving thanks to God helps me start my day filled with positivity and faith. “Think positive and it will be positive” may be a popular new age saying, but it is also exactly what the Bible has been telling us for thousands of years!
Thank God, I have a healthy family, beautiful children, a job that I love, and wonderful friends, so it is not very difficult to praise Him and find things to be thankful for. But lately I have been thinking about people who are sick, dying, poor, or facing other hardships. How are they supposed to praise God with a happy heart? How are they supposed wake up in the morning to a new day filled with hardships and pain, yet still say a morning prayer of thanksgiving?
Psalm 100, which tells us to “enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise,” is speaking to everyone – rich and poor, healthy and sick, happy and sad people alike. Last week, when I went to visit a Fellowship project for adults with multiple sclerosis and other degenerative diseases, this psalm truly came to life.
As I entered the Fellowship building that houses numerous adults with MS for their final years of life, sadness overcame me. Everyone was in wheelchairs, barely able to function. Although the building was filled with bright colors, beautiful paintings, and a blooming garden, I looked at the people and felt sad. I smiled at anyone that looked my way, but inside I was crying, imagining the pain that these people must be going through.
“Come join us for our daily happiness circle,” the rabbi who heads the program said to me. I found the idea difficult to fathom. “Happiness circle?” I thought to myself. “This Rabbi has got to be joking. I can’t imagine these suffering people being happy or partaking in any kind of joyful celebration.”
Before I even finished my thought, I heard loud laughing coming from the room next door. To my surprise, all of the 40 wheelchair-bound adults were in a circle laughing uproariously at jokes the rabbi was reading to them.
“Come sit with us, Yael,” the rabbi said. “Join us for our daily hour of thanksgiving.” With everyone looking at me, I took a seat next to the rabbi and waited to see what would happen next.
To my amazement, each of the adults in wheelchairs, many of them barely able to speak, said something new, happy, positive, and emotional. “My friend called me and left a message that he was thinking of me,” mumbled one man with a big smile on his face, his arms shaking uncontrollably because of his condition. “A volunteer took me for a walk outside,” said a woman with disfigured legs in an unclear voice. “My daughter had a baby this morning,” said another man, while clapping his hands loudly.
To my awe and surprise, one after another, each of the suffering and sick people shared one new thing that had made them happy. Instead of focusing on the dire and painful circumstances they face, they were finding the small rays of hope in their lives and praising God for them. As I carefully listened to the words of these amazing people, it became clear to me that Psalm 100 is a beautiful guiding light for all of God’s people, despite the challenges, pain, or hardships we might face.
My visit to this Fellowship project clearly answered my questions on suffering, and showed me that everyone has something to be thankful for. Thanking God for the little things in life transforms our whole perspective and reality into one of positivity and goodness, and opens up a divine channel for blessings.
Since visiting this extraordinary center, my morning prayers have been simpler, yet deeper and more meaningful. I thank God for the ability to walk, talk, wake up with my kids, and eat a meal by myself. Those are the things that money can’t buy, and are provided to me by God alone.
With blessings from the Holy Land,