One brilliant autumn afternoon I turned my face to the sun and felt its warmth, drinking it in, as New Englanders do, knowing that winter snows would soon beat upon us. I do not take this sunny day for granted. I am standing in the middle of a football field exhilarated by the presence of my sons, daughter-in-law, and four of my eleven grandchildren. I see my grandson toss a toy airplane and watch it do double loops. My granddaughter just keeps swinging, announcing that she is just too happy to stop. My son helps his 6-year old son learn to fly a kite.
Patiently, my son shows him how to hold the kite, to keep running, and watch as it sails in the sky. Kite flying begins with many false starts. Still, the good father gently persists. Some readers might perceive this moment to be of small importance. After all, fathers often teach sons about the fine skill of kite flying. Be assured, this moment is special. I am about to witness a moment of radical thanksgiving.
The little boy I now watch run down the field with kite soaring overhead could not always run and play in the sunshine. In his early years, the child spent many months in a hospital, often confined to a crib. Periodically, his parents helped him walk down the hospital corridor. He wore a hospital gown and wobbled along, determined to get strong.
On that recent glorious fall day, I reminisced with my son about how far we all had come as a family.
My son agreed. “Back in the hospital, I dreamed of days like these.”
I realized that it is necessary to cultivate a spirit of gratitude, “to keep my eyes open and my spirit alert … to live in continual thanksgiving.”
Such are the words of Venerable Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan. In a remarkable litany of gratitude, Cardinal Thuan felt overwhelmed by the gift of his birth, by the labors of his father, by priests who gave him the Eucharist, for being Vietnamese, and for “the people whom place obstacles in my path and cause me trouble; they help me to become holy.”
Dig deeper on that last one. What obstacles? He was imprisoned by the Vietnamese government for thirteen years, nine of those years were spent in solitary confinement.
Never again will I complain about anything.