Feeling Grateful on National Squirrel Day

“Lori!” Vangie said, hurrying through the door, her eyes wide. “There’s an animal in the backyard. He’s grey, and has big eyes and a fluffy tail. And he runs like this. ” She moved her arm up and down like a roller coaster. “Does he bite?” 

My puzzled frown turned into a smile, and a laugh escaped before I could smother it. 

Vangie was from the Philippines and had been living with my husband and me for several weeks. Every day since her arrival, she’d found something new to marvel at. Today it was a squirrel. 

Since the furry rodents are indigenous to the United States, and this was Vangie’s first visit here, she’d never seen one before. Once I assured her they were harmless, she added squirrel to her never-ending list of funny American words and went back outside to study it further. 

Vangie found other aspects of everyday life in America equally fascinating. My oven, for example. Most Filipino homes don’t have ovens, so baking was quite mysterious to her. The day I let it slip that I knew how to bake bread from scratch elevated me to rock star status in her eyes. 

She’d never had a birthday cake, either, something I didn’t know until I’d whipped up a simple Betty Crocker mix for her 25th birthday. Her awe and delight made me ashamed for all the birthday cakes I’d taken for granted over the years. 

I didn’t realize she’d grown up without hot water until I came home one day to find all my dishes washed and half the bottle of dish detergent gone. “You cook, and I’ll clean,” she’d said to me earlier that day, eager to help around the house. 

When I watched her tidy the kitchen after dinner, I noticed she wet each dish individually, saturated the dishcloth with dish soap, scrubbed it clean, then rinsed the suds off with cold water. I asked her why she washed dishes this way.

“When you don’t have hot water, you have to use lots of soap,” she said. Showing her the left hand faucet revolutionized Vangie’s dishwashing. 

January 21 was National Squirrel Day, and as I watched the squirrels race across my back fence, they reminded me of Vangie. I’ve never forgotten her child-like sense of wonder about simple things like birthday cakes and hot water. 

Her delight and enthusiasm made me think of all the things I take for granted. 

Clean water to drink, cook with, and bathe in. After two mission trips to Mexico, I should never take this for granted. 

The ability to sleep without fear. Not everyone in the world, or even in this country, rests peacefully with little concern for safety. 

Choices about what to eat. Many in the world are grateful simply to have food. My “leftovers” would be someone else’s feast. 

Washcloths. I’ll never forget the Operation Christmas Child story I heard about a little boy who received an OCC shoebox for Christmas. When someone asked him what his favorite item in the box was, he responded, “The washcloth. I’ve never had one of my own before.” 

Screens. I live in the Southern United States, where the insects are plentiful, and mosquitoes are vicious. I can’t imagine living without screens (or windows for that matter). More than 40 percent of the world’s population, however, lives in malaria-risk areas. Over one million people worldwide, mostly children, die from malaria each year, which is just one of the diseases transmitted by the insects. I should never take my screens for granted. 

The apostle Paul said, in his letter to the Philippians, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Phil. 4:12-13). 

Contentment and gratitude are beautiful things. They bring glory to God our father. May we never cease to be in awe of the good gifts he has given us. 

I’ve shared only a few of the things for which I am grateful. I’d love for you to add to my list by leaving a comment in the box below. If you’re reading by email, CLICK HERE to visit Hungry for God online, scroll to the bottom of the post, and leave a comment.

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