Wednesday, May 8, 2013

When you Have a Little Whine With Your Cheese

Sign designed by Karen Rinehart
Photo by Joseph L. Harris
Hard working guy in the background - Jeff Buffer

I was scrolling through my Twitter feed on my lunch break and a tweet from CNS hit me right between the eyes:

at morning Mass: Christians are called to mature like fine wine, patiently enduring trials and other people.

I clicked through the link and read what he had to say about how complaining turns us into Mr. and Mrs. Whiner.

I love this pope. Seriously.

I think it struck me so hard because I had just finished complaining about someone I have frequent contact with.  I started thinking about it and realized that I spend a great deal of my time complaining - on-line, in-person and in the silence of my own thoughts.

Having the fleeting thought:  "I am going to start bleeding from the eyes if this person doesn't stop annoying me" is probably a pretty human reaction. But, entertaining it and allowing it to form into a well-developed apologia for why I run the other way when I see that person coming is probably not a good thing for me or the person I'm trying to avoid.  Smiling and bearing annoyances patiently is not my strong suit, but it is a discipline that I need to develop and it's a discipline that develops from being grateful.

A few years ago I participated in a Complaints Choir. If you have never heard one, I promise you it's an experience you won't forget. The idea is that the composer collects everyday complaints and strings them together musically and the choir sings them. The Columbus Complaints Choir collected complaints from all over the world via email and it was fashioned into a blues song.  At some point, the results were displayed as performance art in the Columbus Museum of Art. It may even still be there.

One of the things that makes the Complaints Choirs so very funny is that we have created a culture of complaining and the choral setting just points that up. You hear similar complaints coming from every choir around the world  - from Japan to Chicago. Everyone complains. Look at all your contacts on social media. How many complaints are up on your Facebook news feed right now? We complain about the kids, the government, the weather, our spouses, inflation... There is solidarity in complaining.

But, what does habitual complaining do to us as Christians?  How does this measure up to the tremendous blessings that God is pouring out on us every day? Even those who do not believe in the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross are recipients of the blessings of God when they take a breath or see the beauty of the world. Those of us who know and acknowledge where it all came from are called to thank God and to live gratefully.

Which brings me to another project... #gratefultweet

The idea is to tweet about something that you are grateful for each day. It's supposed to be your first tweet of the day, but I don't do it when I first wake up anymore. For a long time, it was just coffee or hot showers. After all, what else are you going to be grateful for at 6 AM in the middle of winter?

That first tweet really helps put a different spin on the day. It makes you look for the blessings in your life. It makes you realize that there is generally more to be happy about than to complain about and you find yourself looking at the world through a different lens. Instead of "Why do they have to have every road in the city under construction at the same time?" it becomes, "I am so glad I have time to look at the beautiful spring morning. Thank you, Lord, for the beautiful earth."

I must admit to being a bit spotty recently on my grateful tweets. Some days I just don't get to it, but I think I'm going to make a more concerted effort to stick with it.  Who's with me?

Complaining is easy and that's why everyone does it. Being grateful is more of a challenge, but well worth the effort.

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