It seems to be a sign of the times that I hear more and more of my friends complaining about everything and anything and that includes my Mexican friends as well as my non-Mexican friends. My Mexican friends complain about "el gobierno", el peso", "la falta de lluvia" (lack of rain), etcetera. My non-Mexican friends complain about Mexican bureaucracy, water problems, electrical problems, noise, dirt, bugs, heat, and lack of certain amenities, etcetera, etcetera, and so forth. I must admit that at times I feel a bit cranky with my fellow man but most of the time I just take things in stride with a "dosis de paciencia" (a dose of patience) as my wife Gina calls it. Some people might accuse me of being a "Pollyanna". Okay, so what if I am? It feels a lot better than being a grouch or a grinch all the time.
Life in general, for me, has been an up and down series of events about the same as experienced by everyone else. There have been very good days and there have been very bad days but by and large most of the time life is rather routine, except when something irritates us. I have discovered that most of what I feel about life has to do with my own attitude towards it which is really about the only thing that I can meaningfully change. Some people look at a cup and say that it is half full while others might argue that it is half empty. I choose to believe that as long as I have food in my belly, a roof over my head, a warm blanket, and my wonderful wife to tuck me in at night, then "My cup runneth over".
I am reminded of the poor guy who was shipwrecked and who clung desperately to a piece of wood and drifted about on the angry sea for several days and finally, on the point of total exhaustion, he was flung unconscious onto an unknown shore. After being warmed a bit by the sun and dried by a gentle breeze he awoke from his slumber and opened his eyes. The first thing that he saw was a gallows and his heart leapt for joy. He shouted. "Thank God Almighty that I have come to a Christian and civilized land!". Then there is also the guy who said "I complained because I had no shoes until I saw a man who had no feet".
For my Mexican friends I have developed a method to cut short the litany of the complaints. Whenever I see them and we greet each other I say:
Además de mal, ¿cómo le va?
Other than bad, how are things going for you?
Invariably this makes them pause for a moment and then they break into a big grin and say something like:
Pues...todo está bien. No pasa nada.
Well...everything is okay. Nothing happening.
Now I need to find a way to deal with the complaints of my non-Mexican friends...gently!
There is no doubt about it though, bad things do happen and at times they are very frustrating to deal with. Way back in the "olden days" when I was in grammar school I read a poem by Joyce Kilmer. Many of you will remember his name from the poem that he wrote in 1913 called "Trees" that begins "I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree". Well, I am talking about another Joyce Kilmer poem. As a 31 year old U.S. Army sergeant in France he wrote poem called "Prayer of a Soldier in France" shortly before was was shot in the head and killed by a German sniper at the Second Battle of Marne on July 30, 1918. There is a line from this poem that I use as a prayer of acceptance and solidarity whenever I encounter adversity. It is a very short prayer...nothing more than "Lie easier, Cross, upon His back...Amen!".
Prayer of a Soldier in France
by Joyce Kilmer
My shoulders ache beneath my pack
(Lie easier, Cross, upon His back).
I march with feet that burn and smart
(Tread, Holy Feet, upon my heart).
Men shout at me who may not speak
(They scourged Thy back and smote Thy cheek).
I may not lift a hand to clear
My eyes of salty drops that sear.
(Then shall my fickle soul forget
Thy agony of Bloody Sweat?)
My rifle hand is stiff and numb
(From Thy pierced palm red rivers come).
Lord, Thou didst suffer more for me
Than all the hosts of land and sea.
So let me render back again
This millionth of Thy gift. Amen.
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