Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Art of Appreciation

We often hear how lucky we are to be living at a time when the iPad has been invented, or quickie heart surgery that has you on the table in the morning, recovering at noon and shingling the roof by dinner time, and other great advancements in technology, the arts and sciences, medicine, and shoe repair.

But every time there's a big fire or a tornado in Mississippi or a plane crash in Kansas, and there are no fatalities through the mercy of God, you never hear anyone say, "Wow! It's great that the Fire Department's brand-new shiny-red pumper got here so soon!" or "How wonderful that the construction codes were followed, making our houses relatively safe from damaging winds over 150 miles per hour!" or "We were so lucky that the airport fire company covered the runway with high-expansion foam, making our landing, while rocky, as smooth and safe as it could be, what with the landing gear not coming down and all..."

No. What you do hear is, "Thank God no one was hurt or killed. Things can be replaced. People can't."

I find myself in constant awe of people. Sometimes, it's the sorrowful, head-shaking kind of awe, such as when we see the nastiness and prejudice of some manifest itself in odd ways. Sometimes, people are steeped a bit too deeply, and find themselves in hot water, often harboring ideas that are lemons, while they should be seeking the cream of society for their tea party, I think. A cup of Earl Grey and The Canterbury Tales: that's just my cup and Chaucer.

Note to aspiring bloggers: You know what that was? That was subtlety , man, subtlety.

I have digressed, and probably shall do so again. But I ran into a co-worker today, a fellow who has seen some birthdays come and go, shall we say. He had lost his job at one point and only by the kindness of a woman who was willing to give him a chance was he able to re-enter the work force, which is the accepted jargon today to mean "get a new job after not having one for a while." The woman gave him the interview, hired him, taught him a whole new set of tasks, and when he was in the hospital about a year ago, she was there for him like a family member. He owes just about everything to her, and he knows it, and he pays her tribute at every opportunity.

I'm thinking also of a couple of other people who are raising teenagers as adoptive or foster parents. Now, that's something I've never had the chance to do, and I often wonder how I would do at it. I wonder, specifically, if I would have the constitution to ground a teenager, punish a child, take away a privilege, do whatever it takes to teach a lesson. Sure, it's easy to give in and let people under your tutelage run wild, but it takes real heart to take a stand and say, "You're grounded" or "You lose your cell for a week." I see the results all the time, and the person who grows to be a capable, fully-realized adult is the person whose mentors said "no" every now and then, punished them reasonably for transgressions, and set the path for them to tread. We come to learn that people will claim to chafe about living with rules and regulations, but without them, they crave rules and regulations.

So, for the person in the workplace who gave a guy a chance and became more like a part of his life than just a boss...for the parents who draw the line and enforce it...for everyone who is glad they live in this friendly, friendly world, many thanks. The iPad only came out last month, and so civilization thrived for thousands of years without it! We could do without an iPad, but not without you!

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