A week or so ago one of our neighbors called my wife, said she had to run out for a couple of hours, and wanted to know if her son could stay with us while she was gone. No problem, of course, as her son is friends with our youngest and they are together most of the time anyway.
No problem, I thought, until his mom left after dropping him off.
“What’s wrong?” I asked him as the look of sheer terror swept across his face.
“I left my tablet at home, I can’t live without it.”
“O-M-G!” I replied, trying to ease the pain of his first world problem with a dose of sarcasm.
“I guess you will have to ride a bike, scooter, play basketball, kick the soccer ball around, shoot the BB gun, play with Legos, watch TV, play X-Box, read a book, go for a walk, play ping pong…”
“Seriously, I need my tablet.” He implored, practically begging for sympathy and a shred of understanding.
Trying desperately to avoid going into “if I wanted to play with some fancy gadget when I was a kid I had to wait until my parents went to Sears so I could play Pong” mode, I simply said. “Not like it’s an inhaler or insulin or you need it so the hospital can call if they need you to perform emergency heart surgery or anything. I’m sure you will survive a few hours without it.”
Of course, this was a brief fit about nothing and the poor kid, although it was touch and go there for a while, did manage to power through.
The reason I am writing about this isn’t because I was mildly amused by the imaginary problems of someone who literally shouldn’t have a care in the world but because this poor downtrodden child represents what is wrong with almost everyone in our perpetually inconvenienced and disadvantaged society.
“You should have seen the line at Starbucks this morning; I was almost late to my yoga class.”
“The power must have blinked last night, my show didn’t record.”
“I forgot to charge my phone so I had to walk on the treadmill without music or Facebook”
“I went to buy some shoes but they didn’t have what I wanted in my size.”
“Someone brought donuts to work this morning. Don’t they know I am sugar and gluten-free this month?”
“What? No free Wi-Fi?”
“The restaurant didn’t have Coke so I had to drink Pepsi.”
“What? No almond milk at the hotel breakfast buffet?”
“The back yard is such a mess. Having a pool put in is way more trouble than I thought it would be.”
Complaints, complaints, complaints. It seems like most of what we hear these days are complaints.
“We use complaints as icebreakers,” says Robin Kowalski, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Clemson University. “We start a conversation with a negative observation because we know that will get us a bigger response than saying something positive would.”
So, we don’t only complain because we feel slighted, disadvantaged, or because we have an actual grievance but sometimes just because it makes us more interesting? Have we really sunk that low as a society?
Sadly, I used to think we had sunk exactly that low until I found a glimmer of hope for humanity in Mary, a homeless former prostitute, drug addict, and cancer survivor who couldn’t stop praising The Lord because of how blessed she was.
Hard to worry about the small things in life that barely qualify as inconveniences, let alone real problems, when there are people in the world like Mary who has lived a life of bad choices, pain, suffering, crippling poverty, sexual abuse, and deadly disease, yet still enthusiastically praises God for blessing her, loving her, and being good to her.
My mind was still a little blown by Mary and her amazing attitude on Christmas morning when my family and I were feeding a hot breakfast to homeless people in our community when, get this, one of the homeless men showed up dressed as Santa Clause to the sheer delight of the children who were present. Not making this up, he not only ate but he also took the time to pose for pictures with the kids as if he really were Santa.
The man literally sleeps outside and carries everything he owns in Wal-Mart bags; yet he was full of good cheer, happiness, and enough Christmas spirit to brighten the moods of everyone present, even those who might otherwise complain because they had to survive without their electronic toys for a few hours.
Hard to believe I have to get lessons in thankfulness and true biblical joy from people who have next to nothing.
“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
– First Thessalonians 5:16-18