Gratitude Avalanche

Girl Selling an Apple to a Marine on a Train. Seoul. 1954.
Photo by Rod Seiler.*

Buried in Gifts

At my physical therapy appointment, I chatted with Jun, a young man who works there, as he supervised my execution of a series of back-strengthening exercises. “Where are you from, Jun?”


“My dad was there.”

“In the war?”

“Yes. A long time ago.”

Jun turned to me, his eyes fairly glistening. “Please tell him thank you for us, will you? For all of us?” I half expected him to clutch my hand, he spoke so fervently.

“I’ll tell him, Jun,” I promised.

Jun was quiet for a moment as I finished my leg raises. Then he turned to me. “We would be nothing without men like your father.

I got a little more of Jun’s story as we talked. He’s 34. His wife and toddler daughter live in Korea, having recently returned there. He came to the United States about ten years ago as a student. He’s ashamed of his heavy accent. His family is coming back to California soon, and he’s eager for their reunion.

When my dad sent me this image of a slide he’d taken during his time in Korea, I felt a little tug to tell Jun’s story. I sent my father a message asking for permission to use his photo here. I added a few sentences of explanation, reminding him of the young man at PT who’d been so grateful.

“Sure,” he wrote. He added:

Please remember that the cease fire was signed in August of 1953 and I arrived in Korea in April of 1954. There were some incidents but not open warfare.

Last night, after all our family had left, the last of the dishes had been dried and put away, and I’d changed into my comfy sweats to accommodate my feastfilled belly, I stopped, finally, to really reflect on Thanksgiving.

It’s easy for me to come up with a laundry list of causes for gratitude:
My amazing husband, beautiful children and grandchildren, loving family
Employment and a warm, secure home
Good health
My church
Being born in a free nation

And so on. Millions of people could write that list. Jun was on my mind, Jun with his instant, intense gratitude for an event that happened before his birth. My generic list disgusted me. I dug a little deeper, rummaging in my heart for gifts given to me.

Thoughts began to unfurl themselves for me. Our mild climate. Good coffee. A husband who has a sense of humor and dishpan hands. A skillful dentist to fix a broken molar–and having the resources to engage said dentist. Curly hair. Glucosamine. My sweet neighbor Sue. Malbec. My amazing boss. My father’s humility, his  Dadspeak note reminding me that in his mind, the guys who came before him did the hard, dangerous stuff. My maternal grandfather’s deadpan humor. My sister’s wit and spirit. My blogging buddies. My fingers. I couldn’t have prepared that family feast without my fingers!

All these thoughts gathered momentum and bore down upon me like a rolling snowball. I gasped for breath under the weight of all these sources of gratitude.

And like Jun, the thing for which I am most grateful, instantly and intensely, happened before I was born.

My Savior went to the cross and allowed my sin to nail Him to that hunk of wood. 

I would be nothing without Him.

29 But I am afflicted and in pain; May Your salvation, O God, set me securely on high. 30 I will praise the name of God with song And magnify Him with thanksgiving. 31 And it will please the LORD better than an ox Or a young bull with horns and hoofs. 32 The humble have seen it and are glad; You who seek God, let your heart revive. 33 For the LORD hears the needy And does not despise His who are prisoners. 34 Let heaven and earth praise Him, The seas and everything that moves in them. 35 For God will save Zion and build the cities of Judah, That they may dwell there and possess it. 

Psalm 69:29-35 (NASB)

* Edited to add: Dad originally took this photo as a slide. Recently he scanned it.


  1. I join you at the top of your gratitude list.

  2. Plenty of room for both of us, Brandee. 🙂

  3. When I was much younger, I taught a Sunday School class for children. One Sunday I asked them if they had indoor plumbing, and if they had a nice bed to sleep in? They all answered yes. Then I reminded them that we can be thankful for so many things that we often take for granted, because others in many countries may not have these luxuries.
    I was reminded of a visit we made several years ago, to distant relatives in Tennessee. They did have a bed, but she carried water into the house in a bucket and there was a small outhouse in the back yard. How I appreciate good water available in my house.

  4. Carolyn Counterman

    Tell your Dad thanks from us too. 🙂

  5. It is easy to take our blessings for granted, isn't it, Hazel.

  6. Carolyn,
    I'll tell him, but he will tell me he really didn't do much.

    But I've heard the story about the fuel dump, and the story about the grenade booby-trap, so I know he was in danger.


    The reflection time is so vital to our spiritual well-being. I am thankful, too, Sheila, for so very much. Appreciate what you shared here.

  8. Time to reflect…another reason for gratitude. Thanks, Bradley.