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When I was little my family took a trip to Costa Rica to visit a pastor and his family. I don’t remember much about this trip, only a few pieces, some of which aren’t even important. But I remember learning something very important.

While we were in Costa Rica, our two families went to visit Piave. We went to a village where the people were very, very poor – dirt poor. I remember huts and mud, the latter of which I had fun squishing around in with my shoes. Our families slept in the church building on pews while we were there, and if we had to go to the bathroom that night Mom or Dad would grab a flashlight and take us to the outhouse.

I don’t know which day it was, probably the first day, and it was time to eat. These people in their poverty cooked up a feast! I remember there was a LOT of food. I didn’t know it at the time or how big of a deal it was, but they even killed chickens for us. I don’t remember why, but I decided I wasn’t that hungry and told my dad I didn’t want to eat. He pulled me aside and gently told me that I needed to eat. He explained that these people were very poor, could barely feed themselves sometimes, and it was a big deal that they were feeding us. It was very important that I eat and be grateful.

I don’t remember if he told me the story just then, but my dad had been there before by himself with this pastor, and had already experienced these people’s sacrifice to bless someone else. These people love the pastor and he has done so much for them, so they had put on a big spread. My dad was hungry but felt very humbled and almost couldn’t eat because he knew how much of a sacrifice it was for these people to feed them. He asked the pastor how he could eat this, and the pastor replied, “With a grateful heart.” It would rob these people of a blessing if they did not eat. It would rob all of a blessing if they were not grateful.

I don’t remember what I ate that day, or how much. But the memory of my dad’s talk has stuck with me, and I am glad of that. A I have grown older it has helped shape what I know about gratefulness.