What Happens When You Forget Gratitude

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How easy it is to forget gratitude!

Many people don’t say “thank you” when something kind has been done for them. Thank you cards are almost a thing of the past.

We simply are not a society that expresses gratitude when someone takes the time to reach out and save us from danger.

In fact,  a shipwreck on the cold waters of Lake Michigan shows that ingratitude has been an ongoing issue for many years.

Not One Said “Thanks” for Being Rescued

On the morning of September 8th, 1860, The PS Lady Elgin, a wooden schooner sank in the murky waters of Lake Michigan when a smaller boat collided with it.

Over 300 passengers had been enjoying a round-trip sightseeing tour from Milwaukee to Chicago when the tragic accident happened.

Only a handful of people were able to reach the lifeboats.

That morning,  a student from Northwestern University, Edward Spencer, a strong swimmer, rescued 17 people over a 6-hour period until he finally collapsed.

A rope had been tied around his waist as he battled the fierce undertow to reach each person. His brother would pull the rope back over the breakers to bring Edward and another survivor to safety.

Each time he would return to rescue another person.

Edward was left so weakened by injuries in his efforts to rescue these people that he remained an invalid confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

Some years later, in Los Angeles, Dr. R. A. Torrey told the story about this young man’s concern and his heroic deed. To his astonishment, he found that the young man, now an old man, was in the audience.

In talking with the rescuer, he asked him what was the most significant thing about the rescue, the thing that stood out most in his memory after all the intervening years.

The rescuer dropped his eyes and in a low voice said,

“Not one said, ‘Thanks’!”

It is incredible that this man saved seventeen lives. That takes great strength as a swimmer, not to mention many lose their own life attempting to save someone who is drowning.

He never received recognition or thanks from even one person whom he saved.

What Happens When You Forget Gratitude?

When we receive a gift or act of service from someone, it is because they extend grace.

We live in a society where selfishness abounds and often no thought is given to thankfulness.

The grace given is ignored or the person is totally unaware of the gift.

When gratitude whelms up in an individual’s heart it is because he has felt the debt that he cannot possibly repay with enough thanks.

He is intensely aware of the grace extended and gratitude springs up in his heart.

The people who were rescued that September day in 1860 never were appreciative of the death they escaped.

When you forget gratitude you have no idea what you have been saved FROM.

Did I Do My Best?

Is this a question that you ask yourself?

Sadly, most of us are so busy living our lives that we never ask this question!

Although Edward tried to return to college, he was never able to complete his education. Both physically and emotionally he was never able to forget the experience he had that day.

Edward wasn’t concerned that the survivors forgot gratitude.

He never forgot the cries of the people he was unable to save. He often asked his brother, Will,

“Did I do my best?”

Edward Spencer gave the best of his young life to save people from dying without any of them appreciating what he did for them.

This reminds me of Jesus dying on the cross for our sins without being appreciated for what He did for us.

Even as a Believer, you might not fully feel the depth of gratitude as you ought.

I know I am guilty of ingratitude for my salvation.

When you and I forget gratitude, we are oblivious to the people around us who need to be saved from eternal death.

“Did I do my best?”

“Are you doing your best?”

In 1924 Ensign (his first name) Edwin Young (1895-?) heard Spencer’s story and published a song that draws a spiritual lesson from the incident.

Did I do my best for Jesus?”

I wonder, have I done my best for Jesus,
Who died upon the cruel tree?
To think of His great sacrifice at Calv’ry!
I know my Lord expects the best from me.

I wonder, have I cared enough for others,
Or have I let them die alone?
I might have helped a wand’rer to the Saviour,
The seed of precious Life I might have sown.

The chorus heaps question upon question:

How many are the lost that I have lifted?
How many are the chained I’ve helped to free?
I wonder, have I done my best for Jesus,
When He has done so much for me?

I want to ask you, have you expressed gratitude to anyone recently? Have you done your best for Jesus?

You will LOVE the Gratitude Journaling Workbook as a tool to make your journey easier as you are encouraged to draw closer to Jesus.

Get the Gratitude

Journaling Workbook

It’s hard to have gratitude when your attitude is suffering! That’s why you NEED this for your Quiet Time with Jesus!

You’ll GET:

  • Bible Reading Plan!
  • Journaling Pages!
  • Gratitude List!
  • Bible Verses Printable!
  • Frameable Verse Printable!
  • Journaling Art Page!

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  1. Any time I read of this story, I cry deeply. He was maimed for saving others. But the saved remember him not.

    1. What a touching reply to this story! It is an amazing thing that this brave man kept going back into the water to rescue another person. That in itself is astonishing. I don’t think he did it to receive ‘thanks’ but it is so typical that no one thanked him. The same happened to Jesus when He healed the lepers – only one came back to thank Him. Hopefully, we will learn to be more thankful!

  2. It is possible that some these people may have been extremely grateful some time later, when they reflected upon their rescue, and felt terrible about not expressing it. Some of them may have been so exhausted, injured, overwhelmed and even near death at the moment, they could not speak at all. And perhaps some were genuinely selfish ingrates.

    1. Michael, this is such a good point. That really is a possibility. How often have I thought I wrote a thank you card only to realize that I never got around to it. I think for the most part people don’t say thanks anymore than the 9 lepers neglected to. There could be different reasons for not getting around to it. Like you pointed out, some are grateful but never let the person know. We never ought to do anything wanting the recognition.

  3. It’s astonishing that he had a life changing injury because he cared to help those sinking in the river but no one acknowledged his heroism or sacrifice , the Lord will open a book of remembrance concerning him. Bless him

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