It is nearing upon Thanksgiving as I write, though far later, I realize, as you read this. I mention it because it has me recalling the people for whom I am most grateful in these days. Two come particularly to mind.
The first is my mother. My father died young, when I was 4 years old, while my parents were awaiting the birth of their tenth child. With nine kids under age 14, and one on the way, Mom has spent the rest of her life, to this very day, seeing to the needs of her children, not often with a lot of money, but always with an abundance of love. For her I am grateful this day.
The other, whom many of you know, is Father James Lavin. He’s an institution on the St. Thomas campus, having lived in Ireland Hall until very recently. He actually lived in Ireland Hall for more than 50 years, having seen my father through this place before me.
When I was a junior in 1983 and living in Ireland Hall, the St. Thomas Liturgical Choir was preparing for its first trip to Ireland. At the time I knew who Father Lavin was, but I didn’t know him well, and I didn’t know that he had known my father.
Well, it turns out, that without my having to tell him, Father Lavin knew a good deal more about me and about the many sacrifices that my mother had made for us. On the night before our departure for Ireland, I found an envelope under my door. In it was a $20 bill and a note: "Jim, buy something for your mother while you’re in Ireland, and please pray for so and so (the woman who had given him the money) who asked me to give it to someone who may need it." Signed: "Father Lavin"
Well, I was stunned and a little bit embarrassed, but also delighted. I went to bed that night ever so grateful that Father Lavin could be so kind.
But that wasn’t all. When I woke up the next morning, I found another envelope under my door, with another $20 bill and a simple note that read, "Jim, I didn’t think that would be enough. Father Lavin." In my early morning daze, I grabbed the note and dashed off to meet up with the choir.
While in Ireland, I bought my Mom just about the only piece of Waterford Crystal that one could buy for $40. It was a simple crystal cross necklace that she wears to this day, on only the most special occasions.
It’s embarrassing to me now to say that I don’t remember thanking Father Lavin upon my return. I probably wrote him the obligatory note or thanked him when I saw him during "Lavinburgers" (peanut butter and jelly sandwiches) on fourth floor of Ireland on Sunday nights, but I don’t remember.
And so I am grateful for the opportunity that God has given me, these many years later, to live in the very same building with this man who has modeled so well for me the life I have chosen. I consider it a blessing to have been able to recount the story for him, and to tell him how much that gift has meant to my mother these many years later. I assured him that, for her, it’s worth a good deal more than the $40 that "we" spent on it.
In the end, I am grateful for the chance I have had to thank an 83-year-old priest for a kindness done 18 years ago for a young man who wasn’t then sensible enough to be grateful. I am grateful now, and he knows it.
These days have me taking stock of the many who have blessed me along the way, and thinking that perhaps it’s time for all of us to consider those people for whom we ought to be grateful in our lives. Whether it is to our parents, siblings, spouses, children, or our God, maybe it’s time to let them know just how grateful we are. Thanksgiving Day needn’t be the only day in the year that we recall and express our gratitude.
The Rev. Jim Lies, C.S.C., ’84, is a priest of the Congre-gation of the Holy Cross. He is pursuing a Ph.D. in educational psychology at the University of Minnesota and living in the Faculty Residence on the St. Thomas.