DO I HAVE TO?

Activated - - NEWS - By Mila Nataliya A. Govorukha Mila Nataliya A. Govorukha is a youth coun­selor and vol­un­teer in Ukraine.

Oc­ca­sion­ally I teach a Bi­ble class at Sun­day school for three- to five-year-olds. The group is very small, some­times only four or five chil­dren. One of the girls, a fre­quent vis­i­tor, is very smart, out­spo­ken, and strong-willed. On one re­cent oc­ca­sion, she was re­fus­ing to come to class be­cause her hair was messy, but she wouldn't let her mother brush her hair be­cause her mom for­got her fa­vorite pink hair­bands. I found pink rib­bons in the arts and crafts box, and she gra­ciously al­lowed me to braid her hair.

When I was done, de­spite her mom's soft nudg­ing and dad's firm prompt­ing, she wouldn't say thank you. She fi­nally crossed her arms over her chest, gave a stern look, and qui­etly asked, “Do I have to?”

For a sec­ond, I didn't know what to say. “No, you don't have to, my dear,” was fol­lowed by an el­e­men­tary ex­pla­na­tion about how po­lite­ness “smoothes” the rough spots of life and makes in­ter­ac­tions some­what eas­ier, and that most of all, show­ing grat­i­tude melts hearts, and a grate­ful spirit is al­ways ap­pre­ci­ated by oth­ers. That didn't have the de­sired ef­fect, and since the other chil­dren were wait­ing, I had to let it go and start the class.

That month had been tough for me emo­tion­ally. My son, who lives on an­other con­ti­nent and whom I hadn't seen in over a year, was sup­posed to come for a three-week

visit. His older brother, who lives closer—but still abroad—planned to join us as well. We'd made ad­ven­tur­ous plans, booked a place to stay, and had a se­ries of fun-filled ac­tiv­i­ties planned out. But his sched­ule changed, and all of it had to be can­celled.

I was so dis­traught that for a cou­ple of weeks I couldn't pull my­self to­gether. I even went as far as won­der­ing if God re­ally cared about me, as He had al­lowed some­thing like this to hap­pen. Later in the even­ing of that day, fol­low­ing the en­counter with my Sun­day school stu­dent, I couldn't sleep and thought of my sons. Though they're grown up, I can still re­mem­ber cute and naughty an­tics from their early child­hood. Why, oh why can’t I be with them now?! We had planned this meet-up for months! How come, God? I knew in my mind that I had no right to be frus­trated with God, but in my heart I was.

Then I re­mem­bered the in­ci­dent with the braids and pink rib­bons. Does God see me as a stub­born girl with arms crossed over her chest? Am I child­ishly up­set that things didn’t go my way, and am now dis­turb­ing oth­ers with my un­happy re­ac­tions?

I pulled out a worn-out photo al­bum, laugh­ing and cry­ing while brows­ing old pho­tos. So many amaz­ing mo­ments. So much love shared. In this one, I'm read­ing a bed­time story to my boys, five and two years old at the time. Here we are cook­ing to­gether. There they are per­form­ing at a mu­sic school. In that one we're play­ing a board game with their best friends.

I opened photo files on my com­puter. Here the three of us were to­gether last win­ter in the moun­tains; the boys are snow­board­ing and I'm film­ing them. In the next one we're rid­ing horses, sur­rounded by a breath­tak­ing view. An­other is a group shot from some years ago when we were vol­un­teer­ing with a clown­ing troupe at the chil­dren's hos­pi­tal. Then a photo shoot from a few years ago of my younger son re­ceiv­ing a medal for grad­u­at­ing from school with honors. And then me tak­ing a pic­ture of my el­dest son feed­ing pea­cocks last sum­mer.

Then me last year: trav­el­ing through Europe, hik­ing in the moun­tains, swim­ming in the sea, at­tend­ing a concert, vis­it­ing an art mu­seum, paint­ing a mu­ral at an or­phan­age, study­ing at a univer­sity, cut­ting cake at my birth­day party, meeting old friends and mak­ing new ones. Nu­mer­ous ad­ven­tures filled my heart with thankfulness. There are so many sweet mem­o­ries and un­for­get­table mo­ments to be thank­ful for!

Do I have to say “thank you” to God? Yes, I be­lieve I do! In fact, I want to show Him my grat­i­tude and to re­mind my­self what a won­der­ful world He cre­ated for me to live in. I have to keep thank­ing God, for my sake, for the sake of other peo­ple, for the sake of my sons, and even for the sake of my fu­ture grand­chil­dren, whom I will try to teach to say “thank you” to peo­ple and to the One who loves them most of all!

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