Monday, December 21, 2015

"I Complain Too Much!" - A Christmas Story of Gratitude

“I complain too much! I’m going to change that.”

Those were the words that greeted me when I answered a call from a client we’ll call Mary. 

“OK”, I replied. “What happened that caused you to conclude you complain too much?”

Mary's Story

"Earlier today I was standing in line at the food store. I noticed a lady in front  of me counting out change from a change purse. When I looked at her clothes, I saw she was wearing a worn shawl. It was cold and I remember thinking, ‘she should have a coat’.

"She placed a box of oatmeal and two cans of tunafish on the belt. When the clerk totaled up the cost, the lady looked at the coins she was holding and said in a flat, sad voice, 

‘I’m sorry, but I am 28 cents short. Please take off the box of oatmeal.’

Mary continued,

“I couldn’t stop myself. I said to the clerk, ‘Please go ahead and ring up the oatmeal. I will pay the 28 cents.

"The lady objected. She said, 'No, you don’t have to do that'.

“I said, ‘I want to pay for the oatmeal. Please accept it as a small gift for Christmas. I would also like to add this bag of tangerines I have here. Please, accept this as a Christmas gift’.

“The lady thanked me and walked off. As she was leaving, I looked down and saw she had a piece of duct tape holding the back of a shoe together. It was so sad."

Our Conversation About Mary's Experience

When she finished, I said to Mary, "You showed compassion for someone in need. That was very kind.”

“Maybe so”, she replied. “But why did I cry all the way home? I kept wondering if she had children at home that aren’t being feed properly. I then wondered if she had a pet she can’t feed."

Mary continued, “You know how many times I’ve complained about what I don’t have. I haven’t had a raise in nearly 10 years. I'm working a part-time job to pay for Christmas. Money is always tight. I’m always complaining.

“After this happened, I realized I may not have everything I want, but I have what I need. I have a house. My car is 15 years old, but it runs. I have a warm coat, food to eat and enough money to buy my cats food. Thank God I never have to choose between oatmeal and tunafish because I don't have 28 cents.

“Maybe I’ll complain later. Maybe not. Right now I feel very grateful for what I have.”

After my conversation with Mary, I thought about the many blessings in my life I am grateful for. 

What the Research Tells Us About Gratitude and Happiness

Research tells us the simple practice of writing down three things each day we’re grateful for helps increase our overall sense of happiness. 

Helping others is another way to raise our sense of happiness.

What three things or experiences today are you grateful for? Little things such as a lovely sunset, an infectious laugh by a child, or a special touch from a loved one all count.

Pass It Forward

Please share a smile with someone, drop a donation in a Salvation Army kettle, or buy a cup of coffee or even a meal for someone homeless. 

When you give someone else a reason to feel grateful, you can add that to your list as well.

May your holidays be blessed and joyous…

Love and light,


Stephen Carter
Stress Solutions, LLC

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