She had every reason—humanly speaking—to be discouraged…terribly discouraged.

I was visiting one of our church ladies in the rehab section of a local nursing home. A few months ago, she had broken her leg—well, “shattered” might be a better term—and there have been a couple of surgeries, days of immobilization, weeks of very painful physical therapy, and she still can’t put any weight on that leg. Maybe she never will. As one might imagine, the process of recovery has been brutal, and it’s had its share of ups and downs…mostly downs.

That’s all bad enough. But then last week, her children sat down with her and explained that she wasn’t going to be able to go home—at all. She certainly can’t live alone, and for a variety of reasons, none of her children are really able to provide the care she needs. So…her home will be sold to one of the children, and mom will spend her remaining years in the “nursing home” wing where she’s currently living. For a lady whose goal the last 3 months has been to get home, this news was a quite a blow.

As she told me the story with quivering voice, she lamented, “I’ve worked hard all my life. I never had any luxuries…never asked for much of anything…never went anywhere special. Just had the house my mom and dad built in 1948. That’s all. And now I’m losing that.”

Then what she said humbled me. She looked up and spoke with a new-found lilt in her voice, “Well, my sister did give me a good supply of Diet Coke before she left for Florida…and,” she pointed to the window sill, “my son got me that blue dolphin. I love that color!”

In the midst of her heartache and grief, she could express joy and gratitude in a small, blue, glass dolphin. And in those small gifts, my grieving friend discovered a measure of contentment.

My friend simply but powerfully articulated a grand secret of really living that too few of us learn, echoing the words of the Apostle Paul in Philippians 4:11-13. “Not that I am speaking of being in need,” he wrote from a Roman prison, “for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

Being strengthened in the soul by the Lord Jesus, contentment can be found even in a lonely nursing home room; the heart can feel joy in and give thanks for a case of Coke and a blue dolphin.