As I prepared to go on a mission, I was apprehensive about leaving my family and friends and entering a world of strangers and uncertainty. I prayed for calm assurance that I would be able to handle any challenge that might come my way.
My mission call came while I was working as a nurse’s aide in a convalescent center. My favorite patient there was Emma. Although she was not seriously ill, her sight had failed, and she needed assistance with basic tasks. Nevertheless, she was always positive and happy.
On many nights, she would be kneeling by her bed saying her prayers when I came to help her prepare for sleep.
Emma couldn’t remember names very well, so whenever I approached her, I identified myself as the nurse who was soon to go on a mission. Often, she would grasp my hand and ask again when I was leaving. Then she would remind me to make sure I said good-bye to her on my final day at the center, because she had something to give me.
When my last day arrived, I made my rounds to all the wonderful people who had given me so much. I realized that many of them would probably not live through the year and a half of my mission. When I came to Emma’s room, I identified myself in the usual manner and told her I had come to say good-bye.
Emma reached into the black purse she always had at her side and pulled out a shiny silver dollar. She explained that before she started losing her sight two years ago and moved to the care center, she had taken the bus every Monday morning to the senior citizen recreation center for a day of socializing and activities. A few stops down the road from her house, an acquaintance named Bill would customarily get on the bus.
“Good day, Bill,” she would always say, smiling.
“What’s so good about today?” he would grumpily reply.
One day, Bill asked Emma if she had a dollar bill to exchange for a silver dollar. Bill didn’t explain the need for the exchange, but Emma traded money with him.
The following week, someone at Bill’s stop informed the bus driver that Bill had died of a heart attack. Emma had not spent Bill’s silver dollar, and as she reflected on this cynical man’s life, she decided to keep the coin as a reminder of what Bill had routinely said. Whenever she got depressed or discouraged, she would take out the shiny coin and think about what was good about today. She would count up her blessings, and suddenly life wouldn’t seem so terrible.
After telling me about Bill and the silver dollar, Emma pressed the dollar into my hand and said, “I want you to use this coin in the same manner. Take the dollar out often and contemplate all that’s good in your life. If you’ll do this, my dear, you too will find the sun shining brighter.”
As I hugged Emma and promised to follow her advice, I realized that although she was blind, her vision was clear. I never saw her again, because she died during the last six months of my mission. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve clutched that silver dollar with a heart full of pain and despair. Each time, I’ve been strongly reminded of what’s so good about today.