When Complainers Complain

Mary Schmich, writing in the Chicago Tribune, states that 78 percent of all conversations among American adults consist of complaining! After 70 years of observing human nature, I have no trouble believing this.

One of the things I do in retirement is serve as chaplain in the Chicago terminal of a major truck line. Iíve found that whenever two or more drivers converse, complaining is the major theme. They gripe about their employer, assignments, salary, weather, working conditions, spouse, children, fellow workers .....to mention just a few.

I donít mean to single out these men. Theyíre just typical...a microcosm of humanity. The same charge could be made about a lot of church committee meetings! In fact, wherever people gather, and for whatever purpose, complaining will more than likely be happening.

It seems we can conclude that if we didnít find things to complain about, most of us wouldnít have anything to talk about at all. Of course, we might try to defend our words as concerned comments while everyone else is guilty of whining. But we know thatís a giant self deception.

Complaining goes back at least to the Garden of Eden when Adam griped about Eve. God found that unacceptable then and He hasnít changed His opinion.

Remember the sin that brought judgment on the Israelites and prevented a whole generation from entering the Promised Land? It wasnít some blatant immorality or horrendous heresy. It was their incessant murmuring mixed with unbelief. Be assured our complaining upsets God! It really ticks Him off. Yet we have made complaining the socially acceptable and religiously tolerated national pastime. This, in spite of the many Biblical prohibitions against it, and the arsenal of Scriptural commands to rejoice in the Lord always and to be thankful in everything.

We ought to ditch complaining to please the Lord, if for no other reason. But his commands are not just arbitrary. Theyíre always for our good. Surely any sane person ought to realize complaining only compounds human misery and solves nothing.

What if all of us resolved to go twenty-four straight hours without complaining? What if we all did it at once? We wouldnít recognize our world!

- Tom Adams

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A Lift Up

I subscribe to two daily newspapers. Both of them are delivered in the early hours of the pre-dawn darkness. Jeff is the first carrier to arrive. His car slows down a bit as he hurls my paper through his open car window. It barely lodges in the edge of my driveway if heís lucky.

In a few moments, the second carrier , Carla, arrives. She stops her car, gets out and walks up my sidewalk and places the paper on my top front step. When it snows Carla even picks up Jeffís paper (a competitor) and places it beside hers on my step.

Now I realize this is no big deal. Jeffís doing all heís supposed to do, and most of the time he manages to get the paper somewhere on my property. It doesnít hurt me to walk a hundred feet (probably good for me, except I canít do it in my pajamas). But I confess I really appreciate Carla taking extra time and effort to show us this kindness.

As I write these lines, weíve just had a ten-inch snowfall, so Carlaís actions are fresh on my mind. So are my neighbor Donís, who brings his snowblower over and clears my sidewalk. In fact, Iím constantly amazed at the many kind people who show up in my life to help me in ways big and small.

A noted author wrote in the preface of one of his books: "When I was four years old, my daddy used to pick me up and put me on the back of a gentle old mare. Then Iíd ride three miles to town and get the mail. Somebody there would take me off the horse and put me back on. My life has been filled with people willing to give me a lift up."

That last sentence is also my testimony and I venture to say itís yours, too. Sure, some people are nasty, negative and negligent. But think of the multitude of your fellow human beings who have encouraged and enriched your life by their deeds of kindness and generosity.

The other side of being the beneficiary of the loving help of others is to be one of them . ..to lovingly help others in every way you can.

Helpfulness is a loving, divine two-way street that blesses both giver and receiver.

Letís give more attention and energy to being helpful to others. Speak supportive, positive words. Do kind deeds. Give freely. Love unconditionally. Remember, the greatest kindness is sharing Jesus. Go for it with all your heart!

- Tom Adams

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The Burdens Others Carry

Sitting in the reception area for my surgeonís office, I was waiting for his post operative evaluation. In the crowded waiting room I had sat way beyond the time for my appointment. My frustration level was heightened by the antics of a little toddler whom I assumed to be about 18-20 months old. The older couple who had brought him were doing a rather poor job of controlling him, I thought. This energetic little tike was spreading misery around the room.

Sitting there silently, I internalized my agitation. My wife, however, began to graciously engage the couple in conversation as she picked at the tiny blonde bundle of annoyance.

In a few moments we learned some amazing facts about this family. The coupleís daughter had died about a month earlier after a lingering debilitating illness. Now they had the care and upbringing of her six children. On top of all of this, the grandfather had some disturbing physical symptoms which might be cancer. He was there to see the surgeon.

Suddenly my perspective on the events in that waiting room had a complete reversal. I thought of the overwhelming wound of grief borne by this couple. I could not even imagine the awesome responsibility of two people in their sixties rearing six young children. Now their anxiety was intensified by the possibility of the manís serious illness.

I think everyone in that room wanted to embrace the couple and weep with them and for them. No longer were we upset over their lack of handling of the little boy. We wanted to pray for Godís grace and strength to be theirs. The little fellow was no longer a terror to be tolerated, but a lovable lad filled with potential whom we wanted to hug.

Many years ago, one of my seminary professors said, "Men, be kind to everyone you meet because everyone is bearing a burden." I occasionally forget his admonition, but Iíve certainly lived long enough to know its validity.

Not everyone has a burden the magnitude of this couple. Not everyone has a burden that is obvious. But everyone is bearing a burden of some sort. Indeed, we would be startled to know the load some folks carry. Itís enough to make us think about the attitude we exhibit to others.

- Tom Adams                                                                         November 15, 1999

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