Author: Teresa Schiller Community

This Is How Gratitude Works

This story might change your perspective about small acts of kindness.

It is a story about community, specifically about how a community of close friends, prayer warriors, and strangers linked together to surround a very sick little girl and her family. My family. 

A couple months into staying home full-time, my oldest daughter, Nalia, got sick. Like really sick. When her fever hit 105, close friends became even closer. A woman who mentored me months prior provided valet service when I took my daughter into the ER. She sat by my daughter’s bedside with me until almost midnight, ensuring me there was nowhere else she needed to be.

That night, my daughter was admitted into the pediatric ward, and started treatment for Kawasaki Disease; a rare, life-threatening illness that you’ll need to Google because I still don’t fully understand it. Each day, medical students and doctors poured into her room and a new diagnosis was added to her list of conditions: including the flu, a partially collapsed lung, Sinusitis, and Strep. My daughter was a petri dish.

In the middle of this, what could have wrecked my faith, God used to revive me.

When the pediatrician who would be treating my daughter for the remainder of her stay arrived, a team of South Bay staff had huddled around Nalia’s bedside. She walked into our already packed hospital room and pointed to most of the church staff, saying, “I know you, I know you…”

My jaw dropped as I asked, “You attend South Bay?”

You know she did! That’s God. God timed that. The South Bay team was only there for a few minutes. The pediatrician only visited for a few minutes; yet they crossed paths. God not only gave us a pediatrician who attended our church, but He let us know it in a beautiful way. We connected. And I needed connection.

So when someone set up a meal train for us, while it felt unnecessary, it ended up being a huge blessing to have people show up almost every night. It was a physical hug, often from people we had never met before. It was connection and community on a level I had never experienced. And these people continued to contact us for updates weeks later. Relationships at church that had loosened over time became stronger, and I went from fighting to be an independent woman to learning to accept help with open arms, and to depend on God’s astonishing love. I learned it was ok not to send out thank you notes to everyone who reached out a helping hand.

In the overwhelm of generosity, love and support from our community, I felt the weight of debt to everyone who helped us out. I asked everyone how I could repay them, what their “Love Language” was, and what they needed in return. I learned a valuable lesson about my community; Gratitude is shown in paying things forward, not back. If my husband and I walk away from this season and start delivering meals to other families in need, showing up for friends who need support, reaching out to those who are hurting or sick, then God’s work was done. Beneath all of the love and support from our community is a deep sense of calling to serve those in need. We just happened to be the family in need at that moment. 

My call to action is to pay it forward. Read this, and babysit for a new mom. Deliver meals to families who are struggling. Volunteer to visit sick kids in hospitals. The beauty in reaching out is the connection that is formed with each person you help. And in a society where we are separated by cell phones and computer screens, human touch is more valuable and powerful than ever. Show up. Pay it forward.

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