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“Gratitude is riches. Complaint is poverty.” — Doris Day
Yes, Thanksgiving is in the rearview mirror, but it is still worth considering its message: giving thanks for what we have; being grateful. It is also worth considering gratitude’s flip side: ingratitude, which mostly comes out in the form of complaint.
I find the older I get, the more I focus on the good things in my life rather than the bad things. It does not have to be that way. I know plenty of old people who find more things to grump about as they grow older. It is not that I don’t have things in my life to complain about. It is just that I find more joy in focusing on the things that went right rather than the things that went wrong.
Yes, my wife died nearly five years ago and I miss her badly. But that union gave me three sons that turned into three fine men who have good careers and great families (including giving me three grandchildren — so far). From loss came gain. I prefer to look at the gain.
I may not have gone as far in my career as some of my elementary school classmates. (One of which was Ken Burns. My best friend from Burns Park became a vice president at the World Bank.) My career was satisfactory, however. I was part of the Shuttle program, navigating Shuttle missions, and am now helping build the Lunar Gateway. I may not have written that best-selling book that made me nationally famous as I had hoped in my teen years. I have had more than 40 books published, and am still producing four a year.
My house may not be as fancy as many. Nor is it in a fashionable neighborhood. Yet it is paid for, fits my needs, and is comfortable. I could ask for more, but what does that give me besides grief? As Ms Day observes, I am rich in many ways.
Or I could go down the path of complaint. Others have done better than me. Others live in better houses. I have aches and pains. I don’t have it all. Life isn’t perfect. Down the road of complaint lies spiritual poverty.
When friends ask how I am doing, I often respond, “Can’t complain. Wouldn’t do me any good if I did.” They often miss the point of that statement. Sometimes they even laugh and jokingly tell me, “sure, you can. It might even make you feel better.” Except I have never found that complaining ever does make me feel better. It does not do me any good. It often makes people forced to listen to complaining feel worse. I know some enjoy dragging other down to their level of misery, but I do not.
In truth, I find people who endlessly complain tiresome. Anyone can give up. That is easy. I agree with Robert Service: to fight and to fight when hope’s out of sight — Why, that’s the best game of them all!
That isn’t to say I am not grateful for people who constantly complain. I am. Their constant complaining serves as a form of navigational hazard warning. I know who to stay away from.Published in