A few years ago, a gentlemen I met gave me some advice. He said, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans for the day.”

At the time I thought it was funny but not very practical advice. Then, two days later I found myself being life-flighted to Billings after a massive heart attack. As I was being slid into the chopper, that bit of advice came back to me. I had not planned my day around this heart attack. As it turned out, this event (that I had not planned for) changed my life forever in a very profound way. The Lord knew what I needed that day even if I didn’t.

I experienced the kind care of so many people both at Sheridan Memorial and at St. Vincent’s Hospitals. That experience of being helpless and being cared for by so many kind and competent people opened my life to a vast new paradigm in which to conduct the rest of my life. The two most important things that I learned through that experience were gratitude and kindness and how the practice of both on a daily basis could and would change not only my life, but also the lives of those I come in contact with.

One of the benefits of practicing both of these things is that it not only uplifts the person living this way, it changes those that are the receivers of them. Practicing these two things opens your eyes and your heart to wonders all around you that you might not have been aware of if you had not been living this way. As a result of my efforts to live this way (and honestly I am not always successful at it), is that I have experienced so many wonderful people and so much magical joy in my life.

As you may recall, we started this conversation by talking about planning your day or, in fact, your life and how it doesn’t always turn out as planned. Well, I never planned to go back to work at 72. In fact, my plans included as little work as possible. So here I am at 72 working again and what a wondrous blessing it has been in my life. I have gone to work as the Hospice chaplain for the Sheridan Memorial Hospital.

Now at first you might say, “Working with the terminally ill every day does not sound like a wondrous blessing.” But you would be wrong. The Sheridan Memorial Hospital is by far the best place I have ever worked. They have a program in place called “A Culture of Kindness,” and they really practice it and, in fact, insist on every employee practicing it. And I do mean every employee. I have never worked any place that enforced the very things that I had learned through my heart attack experience and had already implemented in my own daily life.

The results of this policy are felt by everyone in the hospital — both staff and patient. It really works. To work with the amazing nurses and staff in hospice and to experience their kind and loving care for those folks that are on the last part of this journey we call life fills my heart with joy and wonder. It validates what I have already learned from my own practice, that kindness and gratitude do in fact change lives for the better.

These ladies of hospice that I serve with are the very best of the best, and I experience gratitude for them every day. I have found that the Lord always knows what will make our lives full and rich if we will but listen to his promptings. In closing, I would like to leave you with a couple of quotes that I try to remember every day.

“Always show more kindness than seems necessary, because the person receiving it needs it more than you will ever know.”

And my favorite.

“Practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty.”

May the Lord’s blessings be with you and yours during this wonderful season of gratitude.

Jack Burke is a Hospice chaplain and member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints