My Thankful Memory Bank
Donna Clark Goodrich
“I sure miss trading stamps,” my sister said one night.
I agreed, adding, “I’ll never forget what happened one time I went to trade some in.”
Our eight-month-old daughter had pneumonia and was in the hospital on her first Christmas. Finances were tight, so I took in two books of stamps to get her a Christmas gift.
The store was out of my first choice and I left the stamps on the counter while I found a catalog. When I returned, my stamps were gone. “Where are my stamps? They were right here?” I asked. No one answered. Almost crying, I said, “Our little girl is in the hospital. These stamps were for her Christmas gift.” Still no one responded, and I left the store empty-handed and in tears.
“How can anyone be so mean?” My sister shook her head. We began sharing other instances when people had let us down and suddenly I was reminded of another story involving trading stamps.
We had moved to Arizona due to my husband’s arthritis. Our son’s eighth birthday was coming up, and a co-worker asked what we were going to buy him.
“He wants a basketball,” I answered, “but we’ve told him he’ll have to wait awhile because his dad is sick and out of work.”
The next day this lady handed me two books of trading stamps. “Here,” she said, “use these to get your boy his basketball.”
When I finished my story, my sister said, “She made up for the people at the store who took your other stamps.”
I had never thought of it in that way, realizing how long the stolen stamps had stayed in my memory. I had told the story over and over again and, with each retelling, the hurt returned. However, I had almost forgotten the friend who gave up her two books of stamps so our boy could have a happy birthday.
Then other friends began flitting through my mind—friends who provided fuel and blankets when I was young; an older couple who gave us rides to our country home from church and refused any money; a family who gave us a piano so I could take lessons; a children’s church director and husband who paid my way to Kansas City so I could apply for a job at a church publishing house.
After my husband and I were married, a co-worker invited us over for dinner. After the meal she led us into another room where friends waited with a “pot of gold at the end of the rainbow”—a goldfish bowl filled with one- and five- dollar bills.
I recalled friends who fed us day after day while my husband looked for work after being discharged from the Army. During that same time, our minister fixed our car and brought over sacks of groceries from the church.
Through the years many friends have been there during times of crises: our daughter’s three-year illness until she was healed; my husband’s car accident and three-month absence from work; my mother’s death with cancer; then my husband’s heart attack and subsequent early retirement. How many friends there have been—and how few have let us down. So why did I always remember the latter?
I realized that’s why I was so often depressed because I continually dwelt on the negative—those few times people had disappointed me. But God showed me through my sister’s comment that for each person who may have let me down, there were many others who didn’t. And these are the stories I need to retain in my memory to pass on to others.
Now whenever someone does or says something unexpected or thoughtful, I write it down and put it in a folder. I call it “my thankful memory bank.” It is growing larger every day.
What a bright tomorrow we all can have if we begin to develop a thankful memory bank today.
“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8 niv).
Donna, this is such a wonderful reminder. Lately, I tend to think of things I’m missing, wishing things were like they “used to be” instead of cherishing all the blessings God provides me daily. Thanks for the nudge to change my perspective, keeping my eyes on Him, the Giver of every gift.
Donna, the verse you ended with is one of my favorites. You’re right–when we focus on the good and the beautiful–on God!–we have the perspective to get through the hard times.
Thanks for this poignant reminder of nurturing a grateful heart even through the disappointments
This is so right on and timely. What better time of year is there to remember the blessings God has given us in the people He brings into our lives?