Saint Meinrad Seminary & School of Theology

Formation and Education for the Life of the Church

The Simple Gift of Gratitude

by Ann Cavera


Yesterday, the sign in front of a nearby church said, "Others are praying for the things you take for granted." This sign reminded me of an Advent experience Jim and I had some years ago.

None of us knew much about the little family that requested help from our parish. It was late in the day when we pulled up to the apartment building south of the city. The mother, her 7-year-old son and her 6-year-old daughter were starting life over in a cold, bare apartment on this December evening.

Parishioners had donated beds and other items, all of which had been loaded onto a truck. Several of us made a caravan behind the truck to lend a hand. Inside the apartment, we realized the items we brought might do little to fill the empty rooms. At least the beds meant this family could sleep warm and off the floor.

The cold, damp weather signaled the start of true winter. Fall leaves soaked by an earlier rain swirled in the north wind and crept into the entry every time we opened the door. Hurrying to unload before dark, our hands and elbows banged against door frames. Strained muscles went unnoticed while we focused completely on the task at hand.

Later, our aches and pains would remind us not only of our age, but also why we never pursued work in the moving business. For the moment, we focused on assembling metal frames and adjusting them to fit snugly around box springs. We saved the bulky mattresses until last and then wrestled them up the stairs and around sharp turns.

During this entire venture, the boy and girl watched closely and the chatter of their young voices filled the air. As each mattress fell in place, they helped their mother smooth out sheets and blankets. Our work done, they covered us with many thanks.

As we headed for the door, something unusual happened. The little girl shyly fished something from her pocket and said, "Here. These are for good people," and she placed a small seashell into each of our hands. We thanked her, said our goodbyes and headed for our vehicles in silence. Although we didn't say anything other than "thanks" at the moment, we knew we had been "paid in full."

That night, exhausted, we spoke briefly about our day as we climbed into our own warm bed. Both of us had been thinking about the seashells and what they meant to us. The generosity of God surrounds us, and yet how easily we take warm beds, plenty of food, money for utilities, a good coat, a car and a home for granted.

That Advent evening, two seashells placed in our hands by a child reminded us of our own need for gratitude. How many people around us are praying for the things we take for granted? 

Do you have a reflection on Christian faith or spirituality you would like to share? Click here to learn how to become a contributor to Echoes from the Bell Tower.

Echoes from the Bell Tower is a blog devoted to observations on Christian faith, spirituality and everyday events, by authors with a connection to the Benedictine values found at Saint Meinrad Archabbey and its Seminary and School of Theology. Contributors include students, permanent deacons, Benedictine oblates and Saint Meinrad monks. Their stories, thoughts and ideas highlight the mission and vision that ring out from the bell towers on this Hill in southern Indiana.