Swimming Across The Ungraceful Middle

Maybe then swimming across the body of water will be more graceful and healing.

The water is wide, my boat is small

                                               What do you do when you experience ingratitude ?  I know someone who invited a relative over for dinner. While he was preparing the main dish in the kitchen, the relative came in and looked at an ingredient bottle sitting on the counter. They picked up the bottle and exclaimed:

                                              “ Oh, you’re using this !    I wouldn’t use this . I’d use something else ! “

                                              Now, you must admit, that’s rather overbearing, if not flat -out rude to say to a host. This is not a behavior that you find welcome, let alone complementary.

                                              Yet, unfortunately, this type of ill-mannered interaction is more increasingly seen in society these days. Like the character Bart Simpson who is head to say  when asked to offer thanks at a family meal :

            “Dear God, we bought all of this stuff with our own money, so thanks for nothing.”

                                   Some people do have the tendency to express that all that they own and that they have achieved is due to their own hard work and effort. They do not have to express thanks nor gratitude for the help nor the assistance of others.

                                   I’m reminded of this when I have an impatient driver, usually in a big truck, who will speed past me on a lone two-lane road. The message you get is:

                                  “ Get out of the way, I’m important and you’re not.

                                    I always say to myself when this happens:

                                    “ Where is the highway patrol when you need them ? “

                                 Where is gratitude these days ? Why do some people have to be sanctioned by higher authority in order to exhibit civil behavior ?

                                 The image that comes to mind is swimming through a body of water. Some pockets will be warmer, and some will be cold. Some currents will be stronger than others and then there is always the risk of running into some kind of debris.

                                  Certain stages of our lives can feel like swimming in the ungraceful middle. I know people and probably so do you, who are struggling with chronic illness, have just suffered the death of a loved one, or have been facing severe financial challenges.

                                These kinds of events and others that people experience can cause one to feel immobile, you may feel off-track, that the wind has been knocked out of you. Here it is more reasonable that people would feel vulnerable.

                                When you feel vulnerable there is the tendency that you won’t always make the greatest decisions regarding yourself or others.  Instead, there can be a great need for defense and self-protection.

                                A number of years ago in Chicago, Il, I saw a Carolina blue Mercedes sedan proceeding North on the Eden’s Expressway with the Illinois license plate which read:

                                “ Was His

                               Again, this instance reminded me that some people thrive on pay back and getting even and sometimes the situation may call for exactly that response.

                               However, the bigger question is what satisfies your longing and your dreams ? What leads to a happy and content life ? We need to be cautious of being too over-instructional with ourselves and our lives.  The temptation will always be to consider if I do this, then I will be rewarded with that and the reward will make me happy and I will think better of myself.

                               That may be true, but on the other hand, as Rabbinic teachers would say, deaths, divorces, illnesses and other tragedies and set-backs have a way of really establishing for us important priorities in life.

                               Maybe, we can begin by remembering to say “ thank you “ and acknowledging the sacredness in all people including ourselves.

                               Maybe then swimming across the body of water will be more graceful and healing.

                               May it be so.

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