A young widow I knew, Lisa, once told me that her neighbor would constantly complain about her husband. The garage was always a mess. He never put anything back where it belonged. He left his clothes piled on a chair in their bedroom. Her neighbor’s complaining never stopped. Lisa said to me that she couldn’t understand how this woman would complain about a husband she had to her, a new widow with young children who lost her husband suddenly. “I would give anything to have my husband back,” Lisa said. She continued to say that a messy garage or bedroom chair would be wonderful if her husband were here to make those messes. Does it take a tragedy to get our priorities in order?
I can relate to Lisa’s neighbor. When my family was young we were blessed with few problems…we were healthy, my husband supported us comfortably, I was a stay-at-home mom and we enjoyed some of the good things in life. My husband, Lou, was a good husband and a great father. He always helped with the kids and around the house. He’s still great and still helps to this very day!
So what was the problem back then? There should have been no complaints and yet I would find them…our garage was messy, too, most of the time and the kids would leave their toys around the house. I wanted even the little things to be perfect. I dusted, vacuumed and did laundry everyday. There was a routine and I never strayed from it. Our neighbors and close friends lived similar lives. Between all of us women there was always someone who had something to complain about. Perhaps we all lived in a bubble!
At forty and back at work, I had the opportunity to meet many who were going through difficult times. There were my divorce support groups and grief groups, not only for adults, but for children. My colleague facilitated the Parkinson’s Disease support group and we provided health screenings for the underprivileged.
It was then I saw the pain and suffering of other people… young children who lost a parent; single moms struggling to make ends meet after a divorce or the death of a husband; people suffering from chronic, debilitating diseases; the poor who had no food or were homeless. They changed my perspective on life.
The bubble burst! How dare I complain when God had blessed me so abundantly! But for the grace of God, I could be that young widow with four young sons. My loved ones could have a debilitating disease or I could be homeless.
My complaining turned to gratitude. I was grateful we had a garage, didn’t matter if it was messy. I was thankful I had toys for my children to play with. I was thankful I had healthy children that could play with toys.
I realized that in an instant my life could change. The little annoyances in life didn’t matter anymore. It didn’t matter if there was dust on the tables. Nothing mattered except that my family was together, that we were all healthy and we were happy.
Time was precious. I wanted to laugh more and play more. I became less rigid and less stressed. I wanted to enjoy every moment with those I loved. I wanted them to know how much I loved them and how very important they were to me.
My priorities shifted….first, as always, God; second, my spouse and then my children. All else came after that, in whatever order worked best for my family at the time. But that dust…well, that dust never made it high on my list ever again.
Peace be with you and those you love.
Dear God, Thank you for all Your blessings. Thank You for the insight to appreciate all the good things You have so graciously given me. Forgive me for any complaining that might slip through my lips. Amen.