Saturday I had to work. I got up in plenty of time to get to work on time, or even early ( a point of somewhat foolish pride for me) and even had time to exercise and eat a nice breakfast. On my way out to the car I remembered that John had borrowed my cell phone the night before at baseball practice but hadn’t given it back to me. I need my phone in the car when I’m working on a weekend as I’m also responsible for taking phone calls from parents. I looked in his baseball bag. No phone. I thought maybe he had given it back and I didn’t remember, so I checked my purse. No phone. I thought maybe it had fallen out in the car. No phone.
It was at about this moment that I noticed that the back tire of the car was flat.
I came inside and told H. about the tire. He helped switch the car seats to the car with the flat so I could take the mini-van to work. (He could change the flat later in the morning and then take the kids in that car.) At the same time I was looking again through all the possible places for my phone. Not in the car, not in the bag, not in my purse. I finally decided to call the phone with the thought that maybe it was tucked in somewhere I wasn’t seeing it. (And with the thought that if John had left it in his pants from the night before and it was in the laundry in his room it would wake him up. Deservedly so.)
The phone rang and a woman answered. She had just found the phone at the park (where baseball practice had been). She was out for a walk with her dog and happened to see it, picked it up and it rang. When she answered, it was me. I asked her to put the phone in a safe place at the park, thanked her profusely and left for work, with a side trip to the park to get to the phone.
In the end, I wasn’t even late for work although I thought I might be. On my way to work I thought about how there are basically two ways of looking at this kind of morning that end up in two kinds of internal dialogue:
A: “I can’t believe it. This kind of thing always happens when I’m in a rush. Why did John have to forget to give me the phone? He is so irresponsible. And why a flat tire now, on the one morning I need to be at work on time. I bet the whole day is going to be like this….”
B: “Wow, I can’t believe how lucky I was not to get in the car and drive it with a flat. It’s such a good thing that I was able to switch with H. who can change the tire. And if John hadn’t lost the phone, I might not have been looking for it and even noticed the flat. And how lucky is it that someone just happened to be walking by the phone when I called? It could easily have just been ringing and ringing in an empty field. Or knowing me, even more easily the battery could have been dead….”
Position B is obviously the better one to take. It’s the one that leaves you feeling thankful and lucky instead of bitter and angry. It’s the one that means you interact with people in a good mood, telling the story of how lucky you were instead of being cranky and spending the day wondering “why me?”
Which am I?
Here’s the thing. Usually I’m solidly in Position A.
I’ve realized more and more as I’ve gotten older that I’m a pessimist. Little everyday annoyances have the ability to totally throw me off my game. I can end up feeling more angry about a misplaced set of keys than an ordinary person might feel about the amount of injustice in the world. I’m not particularly proud of this but it is the truth.
More and more I’ve also grown to realize that a certain amount of pessimism is a choice. As my kids have gotten older I’ve grown to believe more and more that the most important thing I can teach them is how to be flexible, how to adapt and how to deal with disappointments (both big and very small). The easiest way to do this is to try and model this behavior. It’s one thing to say, “Hey, let’s look on the bright side” it’s another to show them how to do that.
I’ll fully admit that isn’t easy for me. At all. But I’m working on it. For some reason this past Saturday found me in Position B as I realized that really the amount of harm to my day had been small and that the series of events had unfolded in the best possible way. Depending on your worldview, you might think this was just a string of lucky coincidences or you might look at it as an example of God’s grace.
I definitely see God’s grace. However, I am cautious about falling into the “these good things happened so therefore God blessed me” mindset. I firmly believe that even if I had gotten into the car and had a flat and been really late to work and never found my phone and had to pay for a new one that those would have been blessings also. Just perhaps not blessings that I could see at the time or ones that would be easy to recognize as such.
One last bit to the story. After I left for work, H.’s brother “D.” pulled up on his motorcycle just as H. was about to change the flat. D. is a car guy with a lot of practical knowledge about car repairs. He looked at the tire, said he could fix it and took off to the store to get the necessary equipment. He came back and fixed the tire for us, saving H. a trip to the repair shop with the kids in tow. You can chalk that one up as one more blessing (or lucky coincidence).