May 6, 2011

It’s All Good / Patti Lamb

An attitude of gratitude for M&M’s© and all life’s blessings

Patti LambLast week, both my 3-year-old daughter, Margaret, and my 6-year-old son, Henry, endured a long afternoon in the car while I ran errands on the far north side of the city. It was a lengthy trek, and they had relatively good behavior as I drug them in and out of multiple stores and other destinations.

I had promised them a little treat upon our return home if they were cooperative during the trip. Unfortunately, I’m not above bribery.

When we arrived home, I grabbed a heaping handful of M&M’s©, and plunked them down on the table. I roughly divided the pile into two halves, and told them to enjoy their little reward.

Quickly glancing at the piles, my son, the older child, adamantly objected.

“No fair!” Henry shouted. “She got more than I did!”

With just a brief look, he could tell that his sister’s pile contained three more pieces of candy than his did. Apparently, his mind works quicker when M&M’s are involved. Or maybe he just processes information faster when he realizes that someone else got more of a good thing than he did.

“I just gave you a bunch of M&M’s,” I said. “Can’t you just enjoy them?”

But after re-examining his little sister’s candy, he was nothing but disappointed. I tried to use this as a teachable moment, and explain to him that his focus was on the wrong thing. If he hadn’t been busy counting what his sister had been given, then he would be enjoying his reward.

Later that evening, I got a dose of my own medicine.

I saw some old friends from school days gone-by. One was driving a top-of-the-line luxury car. I turned and quietly commented to another girlfriend on how well the woman driving the fancy automobile must be doing financially.

I followed that up with, “My old green car looks like a turtle and rattles like a congested snake.”

I caught myself doing just what I had instructed my son not to do. I went straight to comparing.

Then my friend explained the story behind the car.

“Her dad passed away a few years ago, and she received his prized car in her inheritance,” she said.

“Believe me,” she continued, “that is not the way you want to come by a car. Be happy with your little green one.”

I realized that I was counting M&M’s of my own.

I should heed my own advice and be content with the blessings that have been showered upon me. Instead, I often find myself wishing for what others have instead of counting my blessings. I’m too busy taking inventory to savor what I have got.

There will always be those with more and those with less. I suppose it’s a matter of how we choose to see it.

We can look at others who have more—and have it easier—and we can be resentful. Or we can look at others who work even harder than we do—and still have less than we do—and we can be grateful.

The incident with the M&M’s opened my eyes to the way that God might see it. He blesses us so richly, yet we overlook those gifts in our quest for more and bigger and better.

That night, after I put the children to bed, I finished the last few M&M’s at the bottom of the bag. As I ate them, I was reminded of how important it is to be a grateful recipient.

(Patti Lamb, a member of St. Susanna Parish in Plainfield, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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