I was sautéing dinner last week when the clink of the lock at our gate resonated through the kitchen. I looked up, and through the window saw my friend Winnie standing behind the gate’s bars, expectantly and with her characteristic wide smile.
Beneath her arms was a colorful book on the human body I’d lent her; Winnie is studying to be a doctor, and although her professors ask her to research certain topics, few colleges are wealthy enough to have effective libraries. I opened the gate and threw my arms around her neck, accepting the returned book.
Winnie was headed somewhere else and didn’t have much time—but I had to find out her impressions of her mom’s new place: Was it good? Her mother, Monica, worked tenaciously to provide for Winnie and her baby sister. I was eager to hear how their new residence was shaping up.
Winnie’s eyes lit like the late afternoon, African sun. “It is wonderful!” she grinned around her lilting accent. “We have two rooms now—so one person can sleep while the other person is still working. We can close the door so the baby can sleep. And”—she paused for the coup de grace—“the toilet is inside!” She was beaming now.
We celebrated together, and hugged again in farewell. I lifted my hand in broad farewell as she climbed back up the hill.
For a few minutes, my hand lingered on the lock. I shook my head. Thank you, Winnie. Thank you for reminding me to be grateful for things like indoor plumbing, the ability to have privacy, and a bit of comfort to do what you’d like to do in your own house. I needed you today, probably a lot more than you needed me.
Friends who are bubbling over with genuine gratitude are such a gift to me. Somehow they cause me to worship more, tipping my eyes upward rather than inward. My faith swells as my eyes again sweep over God’s gifts that trail me everywhere, that “surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life.”
Thankful friends remind me that, as Ann Voskamp has said, “Everyone gets to decide how happy they will be, because everyone gets to decide how grateful they are willing to be.” Winnie, in her meager financial state, handed back to me a lot more than a book.