“I’m afraid I might be everything I hate.” - The Vespers
“We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts.” - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
A few weeks ago our oven failed to preheat and maintain temperature properly. I called our local repair shop and the next day the appliance doctor made a house call, diagnosing the ailment as a bad PCB Assembly Board.
Last Wednesday, I spoke with the repair shop and was informed the part was backordered. In fact, each of the shop’s three suppliers said the manufacturer (in this case LG) was clean out of them. I snarkily suggested to the shop manager he call my wife and explain why she won’t be able to cook the turkey for her visiting family, or better yet, to invite her to bake the turkey at his house. I can be a real jerk sometimes.
To his credit, the guy called my bluff and replied that indeed my wife could cook the turkey at his house. And, he was nice about it. The Book of Proverbs says something about how showing kindness to your enemy heaps burning coals upon his head. I’m pretty sure this is the kind of thing Solomon was talking about. And, compounding my shame, he offered the part number (EBR74164802) in case I wanted to try to find the item myself. Even worse, he forgave the diagnostic trip charge. Sometimes I hate myself.
I found one on Ebay. Elapsed time: < 30 seconds.
This week is Thanksgiving, a season for reflecting on the relationships and blessings for which we are grateful. I once knew a chiropractor whose business card said, “BE THANKFUL” on the back – white font on a green background. When I inquired of his receptionist as to why, her reply was succinct and instructive – “Because you should,” she said.
I must confess a bit of a funk over the last several months. Without going into detail regarding source or symptom, I can candidly say I haven’t been myself lately, having been preoccupied with a sense of obligation concerning just about everything I do. Feeling obligated will take the fun out of anything. Of course, I don’t mean the good kind of obligation, like being obligated to care for the poor and loving one another as we love ourselves. I’m talking about the bad kind, the toxic kind, the kind we impose upon ourselves through resentment and joylessness, the kind that grows in acidic soil, fertilized with myopia and thanklessness.
Like that proverbial slowly boiled frog, it (the funk) happened gradually, so gradually that I was taken completely unawares. As the song says, it was a slow fade.
Toxic obligation says yes to everything that is asked of you (and many things that are not) and executes them void of joyfulness and contentment. It is birthed in thanklessness, which is why it is impossible to be thankful and simultaneously live in such a state. If it is a kind of Pauli Exclusion Principle that prohibits them from occupying the same space, perhaps gratefulness is the answer.
So, what does this have to do with my oven? Simply that an attitude of thankfulness would have gone a long way toward both the repair shop manager and me having a better day. While I was harping about being inconvenienced (God forbid we would have to roast the turkey in a portable roaster) a billion people were facing the day without clean water. Certainly, a greater appreciation for life’s blessings would have been more in keeping with the truly inconsequential nature of the problem.
So, it’s time to do better. If you’re already an ardently thankful individual, I’m happy for you. But for those of us for whom fervent and sustained thankfulness is elusive, I offer this tried and true starting place: let’s count our blessings. Just to get things rolling, I’ll go first.
I am thankful for Rhonda, my wife. She is the strongest, most steadfast and loving person I will ever know. That she is in love with this flawed man after 33 years is a marvel to me, and I am forever grateful for her.
I am thankful for my family. My adult children, despite them rolling their eyes behind my back from time to time, love their parents deeply. My grandchildren think I hung the moon.
I am thankful for my friends. We drive each other crazy at times, but your faithfulness is a treasure.
I am thankful that I have a great job. The Cvikota family has been exceedingly generous and intensely loyal to me, and there are very few with whom I would trade places.
I am thankful for my country. It may sound corny in this culture of cool, but I believe this is the greatest country in the world. We are imperfect, prone to discord and political acrimony, and too often apathetic and entitled; yet, we can be a wildly generous and profoundly good people.
I am thankful for a safe place to call home. Our house is over 120 years old, without a truly square corner in the place. The carpet needs replacing and the driveway has cracks. But, we are warm and fed and safe and I can hardly imagine living somewhere else.
I am thankful for you, my clients, readers, and friends.
Now, it’s your turn. Happy Thanksgiving!