There are numerous things for which I am thankful every day, and many people, but this year I am more thankful than ever.
When a stroke abruptly changed my world last spring, I learned a couple things quickly. First, I learned that the only way I was going to get through this was to put myself in God’s hands. Second, I learned God has some incredibly special helpers working for him right here.
The fact these people help others was nothing new. Even though I knew some things about their characters before my stroke, I’ve been astonished and humbled by the level of caring they have demonstrated during my recovery.
The first of these is my “brother from another mother,” as he is wont to say, Troy Feltmann.
I have known Troy since I started working at Herald Journal more than 15 years ago. At first, I wondered when Troy ever had time for himself. It seemed he was always either at work, helping at the school, volunteering with local organizations, or making improvements at the city parks in Lester Prairie.
It didn’t take long for me to figure it out. Having time for himself isn’t something separate for Troy. Helping others and serving his community are at the core of what he enjoys doing with his life.
After my stroke, Troy stepped up his game where I was concerned. Knowing that I don’t have any family in the area, Troy elected himself as my personal guardian. From the time I got home from the hospital, he made it his mission to check on me to make sure I was OK and not lying in a heap at the bottom of the basement stairs or something. My balance was severely compromised during those early days, and I was learning to live with limited feeling on my right side, but God and his helpers were looking out for me.
No matter how late Troy worked, he would stop by the bachelor estate at the end of the day and give me the news of the outside world, which made me feel less isolated. Email and Zoom meetings are fine, but it’s still nice to see a friendly face once in a while.
Troy also took care of other things, such as picking up prescriptions at the pharmacy, moving my microwave down to counter height so I could reach it from my wheelchair, and installing non-slip treads in my shower so I didn’t break my neck. These may have been small things to him, but they made a huge difference to me.
Another group of God’s special helpers are the Stapel family. John and Julie, their son, Cody, and daughter, Alexis, have made me feel welcome since I moved in next door to them. Helping their neighors was how I met them.
I bought my house in January 2016 and we had a significant snowfall soon after. I was drinking a cup of coffee the following dark, snowy, winter morning, in preparation for going out and battling the elements with my shovel, when I heard an unexpected sound outside. Realizing that I did not own a snowblower, John had finished his own driveway and started on mine. It was a relief not to have to tackle the driveway before heading to the office.
They are the best neighbors I could imagine. If they are out relaxing by the fire, I can count on being welcome to stop and visit, and I can always hear an entertaining story or two.
Like many writers, I tend to keep to myself much of the time, which must seem foreign to a busy young family, but they are cheerful and kind, and accept my eccentricity.
The youngest member of the family, Cody, is carrying on the family tradition. Teenagers sometimes have a reputation for being aloof or self-absorbed, but Cody apparently didn’t get that memo. If I arrive home when he is out shooting baskets or working in the yard, he always stops to give me a friendly greeting, and I enjoy talking with him.
The Stapel family has always been helpful, but they, too, have stepped up their game since my stroke. Whether it involves lawn maintenance, cleaning out gutters, or a thousand other kindnesses they have shown me, they seem to be constantly on the lookout for ways they can help their neighbors.
When I was unable to drive in the days after my stroke, they offered to pick up things from the store if I needed anything, and generally made it clear that I could call on them if there was something I needed.
Like Troy, helping others does not seem to be a burden for John, Julie, Cody, and Alexis. It is a natural part of who they are. None of these good people do what they do because they are seeking recognition or rewards. I am humbled by their example, and I am deeply grateful for their friendship and their assistance.
There have been times when I have been frustrated by the fact I can’t do some of the things I used to do, or can’t do them as well as I did before, but my friends did not judge they just stepped up and found ways to help.
Having people like Troy and the Stapel family keeping an eye on me provides security, not just for me, but for my sister who lives in another city, as well. She worries, the way sisters do, and knowing there are people she can contact if I go off the radar unexpectedly gives her peace of mind, which I appreciate.
I’m not sure how I would have got through this year without these special people, and I am thankful I didn’t have to.
It is at times like these that we realize just how fortunate we are.
My friends may be uncomfortable with the recognition, but in their quiet way they are making a positive difference in the world, and I want them to know just how much I appreciate it.
I don’t make a production of Thanksgiving, but I will definitely take a moment to drink a silent toast of gratitude to those who have given me so much for which to be thankful.