Sunday night, I had the misfortune of being dragged into that very famous fast food restaurant - you know, the one that got its start right here in Des Plaines? Golden arches? Get the hint? Mom and Dad had promised my disabled sister some dinner at said establishment and she thinks it's a treat, so I tagged along. I was ready to lose my marbles after 10 minutes. The so-called "fast" food took 15 minutes to order (I am not exaggerating), another 10-15 minutes to arrive and even then, our order was short two items. There was a children's birthday party going on, which involved nothing but screaming and frequent trips to the restrooms. Another group of parents and kids chattered in another corner. Amusingly, the recorded background music was playing Bob Dylan's "Tangled Up In Blue." I felt like I was on Mars.
Then I took a deep breath and told my inner whiner to shut up. I had a warm coat, cash in my wallet, a hot and somewhat tasty chicken sandwich in front of me, the love of family, a car to get us there (and get us safely far away...). The only reason I was tired and impatient was from a 6 hour high school class reunion the night before, which was restorative and amazing and fun beyond belief. All this in a world where millions live on less than one dollar a day. I shouldn't be crabby, I should be ashamed of myself.
There's a wonderful Conan O'Brien clip going around the Internet in which comedian Louis CK laments, "Everything's amazing and nobody's happy!" We complain about waiting an hour while the plane idles on the runway, when it used to take 30 years to get from New York to California. We complain about how slooooow the Internet is when we didn't even have it available a few years back. When did we stop marvelling at new inventions and conveniences and begin to take everything for granted?
The only way it will change? A massive shift in mind-set, followed by an equally massive change of behavior. Don't limit your gratitude to an hour at your house of prayer every week. When you're tempted to gripe over that long line or slow computer, think of what your life would be like without those services, or if they were available only to the wealthy and powerful. Got a job? Be thankful. Got your health? Be thankful. Got loving family and/or friends? Thank them. Got shoes on your feet and somewhere to sleep? Praise your particular God or your lucky stars for those things every day.
Want to see the world become a more grateful place? Share what you've got. We are currently collecting NEW hats, gloves, mittens and scarves at our Mitten Tree, on the Library's second floor. Items for children and adults are welcome. We are always collecting food for the Self-Help Closet and Food Pantry, just look for the red barrel in our atrium, but right now our 3rd floor Readers' Services staff is taking up a special food collection: details here. One of my favorite stories in the Christian Bible is that of the widow's mite. The rich come to the temple treasury and make what seem like grand donations, but they leave plenty in their own pockets. The widow comes with her last, small coin and gives it away. We're told she is the one who will be richly blessed for giving all that she has. Give thanks this Thursday - and give help if you can so that others can be thankful, too.
Need a smile? Drive down Prairie Avenue, west of Graceland, and watch for a house just east of the railroad crossing, (sorry, I don't know the cross street) with huge letters on the front lawn spelling out "Give Thanks!" Love that sign of holiday joy!