The Power of Thank You by Nicki Mlakar

I know I am in Santa Cruz when I feel the sun beating down just THAT much hotter. 

My Tuesdays are spent with the men and women at the Infirmary. In full transparency, I was so nervous to be assigned to an infirmary. To my surprise, it could not be a bigger blessing.

I simply love my Tuesdays. 

So let me introduce you to some of my friends! 

Ms. Nora

Ms. Nora is a little, old woman who has these big eyes that are beginning to turn blue from the cataracts that are forming. She has the world’s biggest and warmest smile. She tells me every week how upset she is because she dropped her dentures and they broke. Nonetheless, she smiles away. Ms. Nora does this thing when she gets really excited- she pulls my hand to her forehead and does this squil of a little girl. The innocence within her is simply precious. When greeted by Ms. Nora, I am reminded that this is how I want others to feel when I see them- delighted and overjoyed to be amongst their presence.

Ms. Debbie and Mr. David

I can always count on these two to be at the same table and seats in the lunchroom each time I visit. They are two peas in a pod. 

Ms. Debbie is a middle aged woman who has burn marks all over her body which results in skin discoloration and hair loss in patches. Ms. Debbie does NOT hold back when playing Dominos. I usually always lose. 

Next is Mr. David. He is a well spoken man who used to be a deacon for a Pentacostal church. 

I read the bible to them. Following a passage, Mr. David always asks me, “What does that mean to you?”. I share my reflection, and he listens intently. In return, I ask him the same. I am continuously blown away by his eloquent responses that are so full of wisdom and experience.  

Next Michael

Michael loves to watch tv and wearing his Miami hat. He told me he wants to pray with me. I love praying with the people here. They hang onto every word and truly feel the spirit moving within the space that they make holy. 

The infirmary is set up that men are in one building and women are in another. Along the walls are dozens of beds for those that stay there. There are close to 100 people in total. 

Next, I want you all to know Mr. Williams. 

Mr. Williams is a little, old man who is paralyzed so he is always in his bed. 

Our conversations typically go a little something like this:

“Hi Mr. Williams! How are you today?”

“Not as good as you.”

“How are you feeling today?”

“In pain.”

“Where?”

“All over.”

“I can’t move. My back hurts.”

And then Mr. Williams will proceed to talk about whatever he wants to share that day. 

One day in particular while feeding him, I had the most beautiful, yet humbling experience. It made me think of this African proverb that says, “A person becomes a person through other people”. Feeding Mr. Williams helped me derive this new self understanding. 

We didn’t speak, and he never broke eye contact. His eyes were filled with pain. His eyes were filled with shame of not being able to move. But his eyes were filled with gratitude. 

He had to humble himself enough to allow me to feed him. 

He saw me, and I saw him. 

Person to person. 

Renne Brown tells us, “In order for connection to happen we have to be seen. Really seen”. 

After taking his last sip of water, he grabbed my arms and said these two simple words to me with more intent and conviction than I have ever heard them have, “thank you”. 

Thank. You. 

Two words we hear so frequently throughout our days quite literally sent shivers down my spine and called a change within my own perspective. Those two words challenged me to see with a new lense and to recognize the beauty amongst me regardless of the harsh realities and challenges I am learning about each and everyday here. 

Mr. Williams reminded me of the power of thank you, the meaning behind it, and the conviction that can and should be felt by those that touch you. 

“What happens outside of us is not nearly as important as what happens inside of us.” -St. Paul of the Cross 

Today, on September 14, 2019: 

I am thankful for the breakfast I ate. 

I am thankful for the running water and toothpaste I have to brush my teeth. 

I am thankful for rain. 

I am thankful for the food on my plate. 

I am thankful for my health. 

I am thankful for the opportunity to be here everyday and learn. 

I am thankful for the many men and women here who have called me their daughter. 

I am thankful for my community who has created a space where vulnerability is welcomed and a space to laugh. 

I am thankful for the unwavering love and encouragement I have received from all of you. 

I am thankful for the gift of today. 

May we see with the eyes of our heart and be thankful.