One Grump’s Gratitude

I’ve had a series of grumpy weeks. Meaning, I was grumpy. Annoyed at events, condescendingly bewildered at how others did things, and internally rolling my eyes at everything from Baltimore drivers to Tweeples and the universe they inhabit.

We all are grumpy at times. Some are overt grumps (“Get off my lawn!”) and some are more passive about it (“If Dawn wants to meet for coffee, it would be nice if she would show up on time . . .”)

Me, I’m an overt grump. We, our little family of four, have two overts and two coverts (and the coverts are really our optimists, as well–they are only ocassionally grumpy). But one thing is not secret. I’m the grumpiest.

With what little self awareness I have had over the past few months, I have concluded that grumpiness is generally proportional to pessimism. The more pessimistic you are, the more likely you are to be perceived as (and actually be) a grump.

So you stomp on through your days, with your grumpy self. And then life strikes and you learn a hard lesson, one you needed to learn (or re-learn, probably) but so desparately wished you could have learned a different way.

This week, I met and said goodbye to a man I never met. I was witness to hundreds of, maybe close to a thousand, people whose life was impacted for the better by someone who by all accounts was the opposite of grumpy and pessimistic.

The most striking thing to me was how much more optimistic I grew during the week. That, of course, makes no sense, when the presence of a stupid idea or a reckless driver is enough to make me shake my head and wish people were different (read the unsaid but most arrogant part: “and more like me.“) The loss of a beloved, impactful person, one that I only knew through stories of his life cut short, should make me more pessimistic about the state of this world. One less saint on Earth, right?

Wrong. It made me grateful to witness the impact of this person and to learn a few life lessons. I can preach to teams and staff members to be creative in offering solutions (and I have) but it’s not something I’ve been too accomplished at these past few months, as I reflect on (or more accurately, bemoan) how hard my professional endeavors and faith struggles have grown. But listening to person after person talk about the impact of someone who always looked to make things better, despite big obstacles and even opposition, somehow I couldn’t help but catch a bit of the optimism bug. It made me ask myself, “Why aren’t you asking how you can do something instead of logging the ways you can’t?”

Yes, to some degree, that’s the lawyer in me, logging the “can’ts.” But lawyers should always be problem solvers. My job is to problem solve. It’s a trap to allow myself to be dogged by external forces, like lean budgets and hateful politics and bad actors in churches and governments. If I do that, if you do that, we are offering up our agency to others. We are giving away, abdicating, our power. Hardest to admit–we are being lazy.

And so, today, I look for solutions to hard (really, really hard) problems that my clients face, that my family members face, even that my Church faces. I express gratitude for those who have taught me this lesson of optimism and gratitude, and for those who helped me get where I am now–those who presented a path when I wanted to leave private practice, and those who presented ever-branching paths thereafter. I am grateful for family, ever growing, and friends, always challenging.

Are you a part of the problem or a part of the solution? This is one of my favorite questions, one I have sternly asked staff members in the past. One I haven’t asked myself enough as of late.

I am grateful for today and its many blessings. Tomorrow is not promised, folks.

Be grateful.

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