The gratitude adjustment
I snapped, “Well, maybe for the next snow storm you can leave your car in the driveway and see what it’s like.”
It certainly was not one of my most tactful moments.
I was at the bus stop (last winter. I am no longer part of the bus stop crowd since my youngest is adamant about the fact that he can handle it by himself) and had just expressed how grateful I was that we had a garage and had found a plow guy the day before the last storm. It was our first winter in our new house, which has a reeeeeeally long driveway, as opposed to the eight-steps-to-the-main-road driveway in our old house.
It was the first time I’d had a garage in more than a decade, and in fact, I’d only ever lived in one other house with a garage (for three winters) in my entire life. So I am no stranger to having to shovel a path to the car to start it (if it starts), so it can warm up (and you don’t have to scrape ice off the windshield) while you shovel the rest of the driveway, to which you’ve added the snow you brushed off the car’s roof and hood since you better do that before you leave the driveway lest you run the risk of it sliding onto your windshield (dangerous) at the first stop sign and/or having it fly off the back of your car onto someone else’s windshield (discourteous and dangerous.)
When we got hit with our first snow storm of the season on Thanksgiving, it reminded me just how much there is to be grateful for. First of all, we didn’t lose power, like a lot of people did, so we could cook a meal. And watch football and movies. And we had heat and light. I remember a terrible power outage six years ago where we were without power for two days and some people were for as many as two weeks. Being cold and in the dark ranks high on my list of unpleasant experiences.
As we traipse through the Christmas season, let’s be mindful of just how fortunate we are. I imagine that if you are reading this story on a computer or other electronic device you’re pretty well off. The fact that you are reading it at all means you are better off than 774 million people worldwide who can’t even read.
Here’s a story from when my kids were much younger and we lived in our other house.
The gratitude adjustment
“There’s only one sock!” My son growled at me. It was Monday morning and he had just got out of the shower. He was rooting through the clean laundry on the dining room table.
“Hon, I washed everything you put in the hamper last night.”
“I don’t have any socks!”
“That can’t be true. I am sure there are clean socks upstairs. Unless you’re hoarding dirty socks somewhere…”
“I don’t want to go back up there. I’m already late!” he snarled.
“Well, then wear a dirty one!” I suggested, matching his tone.
He scowled at me and started burrowing through the hamper, which sits somewhat discreetly next to the door leading to the basement where our washer and dryer are. His towel slipped. His brothers started goading him when he made disgruntled noises.
“Hey,” I warned him.
He huffed off into the living room, grumbling “My life s-cks!”
“Oh, come on! I can’t believe you would say such a thing. There are people in this world who don’t even have any socks, or shoes for that matter. They aren’t sitting inside a warm house all decorated for Christmas about to have their breakfast served to them!”
“I’m not eating.”
As annoyed as that makes me, getting into a yes-you-are-no-I’m-not argument with my son over eating a breakfast that I took time out of my busy morning to cook is extremely counterproductive. At least now that we have a dog, there’s rarely any plate waste.
“I’ll eat it, one of his brothers piped up.”
“Great,” I said and set the plate of chocolate chip pancakes and bacon down on the dining room table next to his brothers’ plates before codependently stomping upstairs to check out the sock situation. I needed to step away anyway. Sure enough, it was just a matter of laundry not being put away. I grabbed a sock from his clean pile (he wears all the same kind so there is no matching involved).
“Look what I found,” I showed him when I got back downstairs. He grabbed it out of my hand wordlessly and threw the dirty one in my general direction. Normally this attitude would make my eyeballs pop and steam blow out of my ears, but I took a deep breath and again walked away, back into the kitchen.
I’d had the day off the previous day, and had done some Christmas shopping. Grumpy’s cheerful and talkative brothers asked me if I’d got them any gifts yet. Grumpy skulked over his plate of pancakes in the dining room, but since our house is so snug, I was sure he could hear.
I told them I’d picked up a few things for them, but not that day. “I bought dog food and some office supplies and I picked an ornament from the giving tree.”
“Well, it’s a tree they had set up right in the front of the store with paper ornaments hung on it for people to take to buy gifts for a stranger. On the ornament was written a kid’s name, their age, their Christmas wish, and their sizes…”
“Why their sizes?”
“Hon, because many of these kids are asking for things like boots or a coat for Christmas.”
“Yeah, things that you guys receive for no special occasion and take for granted.” (No one wears a coat to school; it’s a small miracle if they wear long pants).People who wear shorts or go without a coat in the winter take for granted that they will never be cold. I hope one day these people realize their good fortune. Click To Tweet
I continued, “There was one ornament asking for bibs and diapers.”
“How could a baby wish for that!?” Grumpy scorned.
“Well, obviously, they can’t. It must be their parents using up their wishes for their baby.”
Silence, then, “Did you take an ornament?”
“Yeah, I looked at a bunch until I found one for a girl. Her name is Yolanda.”
“What did she want?”
“Hair accessories! I had so much fun choosing things that I never get to think about! I got clips, elastics, headbands…in all different colors…shampoo, conditioner, a brush and comb set, and a case for all of it…”
One by one they began filing in to put their dishes in the sink. Grumpy was last. “Do you have anything you would like to say to me? You know about your attitude and your behavior?”
“Not in front of him,” he gestured to his older brother, who was hovering in the doorway of the bathroom that is adjacent to the kitchen, waiting for his turn to brush.
“Whisper it in my ear.”
“Is there anything you’re grateful for?”
(“Our home and our Christmas tree.”)
Do you want to thank me for anything?
(“Thank you for breakfast.”)
“You’re welcome, lovey. Now go pick up that sock before you brush and get ready for the bus.”
Some people choose to wear shorts and go without a coat in the winter because they take for granted that they will never be cold. And some leave their socks around the house because it is warm enough to go barefoot. I hope one day these people realize how fortunate they truly are.