Sober since April 6, 2006


Thursday, August 17, 2006

My Itty Bitty Traffic Gratitude Lesson

A while back, I was able to experience a lesson in gratitude.

I was stuck in stop-and-go traffic on a cold and rainy day. I was wishing that I had more money so that I could have a cooler car. My car model was frequently used at rental businesses in the late 1990's. There was nothing cool about it. It might as well have had "Hertz" printed on the doors.

The body style was ugly and plain. I didn't like the color. It had no spoiler. The engine was weak. The tan interior was so ... "rental". Ugh, disgusting.

I wanted something sporty -- something with a more powerful engine that took off in a thrill of revved engine glory -- something with a spoiler, underbody kit, fog lights, tinted windows, and shiny black paint.

As I drove, I continued my silent rant about all the things I hated about my car.

Traffic came to a stop at another red light. It rained harder and I turned my heater on its warmest setting. It was so cold outside, and the rain was so heavy.

Then something hit me like a ton of bricks.

Right in front of me was a very old car. The paint was completely peeled off, and the engine was sputtering. Fog was accumulating on the inside of the windows, but the car's defrost wasn't working. The windshield wipers kept getting stuck in the cold, hard rain.

As we sat at the red light, the driver used a towel to wipe the fog from the inside of his windows -- he wiped just enough to give him good sight of the road.

But darn, his windshield wipers got stuck again. It looked like they were stuck for good. Perhaps something in the wiper motor was stripped? But it was raining so hard, those windshield wipers really needed to work.

Just when the light turned green, he hurriedly opened his door, got out in the freezing cold rain, and manually gave the wipers a good push-and-pull to get them working again. He removed his hand to see if the wiper motor had caught on yet. It hadn't. So he apologetically worked the wipers a few more times, desperately trying to get them working as the freezing rain drenched him to the core.

The lady driver behind me (in a brand new luxury car) scowled at the situation.

Finally, the wipers were working. They were very slow, but they were moving again. The light turned yellow. He quickly jumped back inside his car, the fog of his breath still visible inside his freezing cold vehicle, and he slowly took off through the intersection with his engine sputtering.

The light turned red for me, so I stopped there at the intersection and watched him drive off.

The lady behind me was furious that she had to sit through another red light. But I was grateful to be stopped for another few minutes.

There I was, in my nice warm car. My windshield wipers worked. My heater worked. My engine worked. Shoot, even my radio worked! My seats were comfortable and soft. I was surrounded with luxury.

Tears filled my eyes, and I was suddenly extremely grateful for the very thing I had been complaining about for the past fifteen minutes.

It's interesting how a bitter rant can easily convert into extreme gratitude. It's all in our perspective.

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