Give thanks for blessings and crosses

Published 11:00 pm Friday, November 16, 2012

Hank Jones interrupted the conversation on Thursday and asked a question.

“Before we receive our food, how about we go ahead and give thanks?”

Bowing a fuzzy head, Hank began to pray: “Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for all the blessings you have so generously given us …”

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And he went on, giving thanks for the blessings of everyday life, for schools, for parents and volunteers, and even for the challenges and opportunities we face each day.

While I’ve heard Hank offer thanks scores of times before, this prayer struck a chord deep inside and gave me pause.

Only minutes before, Hank had been updating our group on his battle against cancer. He shared, candidly, the weekly struggles with his treaments.

“There’s a day or two where I hurt, everywhere might be the top of my head, might by the bottom of my foot … and then there’s a day or two where I feel pretty good.

“The rest? Pardon my launguage,” he said looking around, “But they’re pretty crappy … And thank goodness Eulane loves me, because I’m pretty miserable to deal with.”

His battle with cancer has left him bald – “although it’s starting to come in a bit,” he jokes, tired, cold and thankful.

A former superintendent of the Troy City Schools and beloved member of the community and Park Memorial Methodist Church, Hank is probably on more prayer lists than anyone could count – yet he’s the first to offer a prayer for others. Having been a part of the Troy City Schools for more than 30 years, from classroom teacher to superintendent, he has touched thousands of lives. And now he’s prayed for, worried about and tended to by young and old alike.

Even in this struggle, he continues to teach us. This time, the lesson is about the grace of a life lived by faith, a man certain of the love God has for him and dedicated to living his life by sharing that love with others. Certainly, he suffers – physically and mentally. But he lives, each day, thankful and thoughtful.

It’s a lesson first taught by Job, whose story is found in the Bible. “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” he rebukes us. (Job 2:10 NIV).

Every day we are bombarded with the sufering of the world around us – fiscal cliffs and political scandals, shrinking paychecks and rising taxes, too many demands and too little time. We struggle, we suffer, we carry crosses that we wish we could shed. And we

This week, most of us will sit with family and friends, around abundantly filled tables and give thanks for our many blessings – offering an inventory of all that is good and wonderful in our lives.

But as Hank’s prayer reminded me this week, we should also give thanks for the crosses we’re given and the opportunities they offer for us to experience God’s grace, every day.

Stacy Graning is publisher of The Messenger. Contact her at