“Gratitude is a quality similar to electricity: it must be produced and discharged and used up in order to exist at all.”—William Faulkner.
any letters come across my desk in a year, but one that arrived last January 25 was extra-special.
It came from Richard Seltzer, office manager of the Redding (California) Seventh-day Adventist Church. When he took that position some two years earlier, he had the idea of sending a card or two a week to the church’s shut-in members. From that beginning, however, the categories of members receiving cards multiplied to seven a week. Today, the list includes Sabbath school program presenters, guest speakers, etc. In addition, he said, each week they send a card to a person or organization belonging to the particular division featured in that quarter’s mission emphasis.
Then he wrote the sentence that caught my attention: “We send cards for no special reason except to say thank you.”
One of those who received the church’s thank-you card was Judy Heinrich, for many years a coworker with her husband Oscar in the production of “Mission Spotlight,” shown in Sabbath schools around the world. The Redding church’s letter came at a special moment for her, she said in a letter to them. “When I arrived at the office this morning,” she wrote, “it was almost more than I could handle because it was just three years ago tonight that my husband, Oscar, had a heart attack and passed away.” Just before the church’s letter arrived that afternoon, one of her daughters had brought to her office a bouquet of flowers in memory of her dad. “I was sitting at my desk trying to absorb their beauty,” Mrs. Heinrich wrote, “when she came back in, placed your letter and card in my hands, and said, ‘I cannot believe this came right at this time!’”
The church’s thoughtful gesture had arrived just in time to lift the spirits of a bereaved spouse bravely struggling to carry on.
My situation was different. I was not grieving the loss of a spouse. But there’s probably not a single one of us who does not appreciate a word of encouragement from time to time. And truth be told, mine is a lonely—and sometimes thankless—job. But that cold winter day back in January, the letter from the Redding church arrived to brighten the drabness. “We are sending you a card just to say thank you,” Seltzer wrote. “Thank you for your years of service to our church, for your wisdom and insight, and for the thoughtful and intelligent way you present that wisdom and insight. We pray God’s continued blessings and leading in your life.” And more than 30 of the church families signed the accompanying card.
How precious! Apart from the heavenly agencies themselves, these are the people who give me the inspiration to go on—inspiration to write one more article, attend one more committee, preach one more sermon, work one more day. Often nameless, these are the people I live for. And what I like about their expression of gratitude is that it came with no strings attached, no hook on the end, no product to sell. “We send cards for no special reason except to say thank you.”
So as Americans observe this Thanksgiving season, I wanted to take the opportunity to say thanks to the pastors and members of our Redding church for their spirit of generosity, caring, and encouragement.
They made my day!
Roy Adams is an associate editor of the