Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Nothing to Complain About

I saw an Oprah show the other day that made me think. A Pastor of a church decided he wanted to help his congregation learn how not to complain. He made up some of those rubber bracelets like they use for cancer awareness. He made them purple. He gave them to everyone in his congregation, and explained that these bracelets were to help remind them not to complain. They started out wearing them on one wrist. The goal was to wear the bracelet for ....Hmmmm...I think 20 days without complaining. If they complained, they were to change the bracelet to the other wrist and start the 20 days over. This movement kind of grew, and today if you send that congregation a letter, they will send you a purple bracelet for free.

Oprah asked audience members if they complain. She singled out one man randomly and asked if he complains. He said, "I don't have anything to complain about.". She praised him for his good attitude.

Then the show went on to spotlight a young girl who lost a limb, I can't remember which limb. They talked about how with modern science she has been able to get a high tech prosthesis that has helped her to lead a more normal life. As they were talking about it, the mother of the little girl turned in her seat and pointed to the man who had said he had nothing to complain about. She said, "He is the doctor that made all this possible". He was the doctor who had gotten the prosthesis for the little girl.

I really don't think this was staged because Oprah's reaction was one of shock. She seemed a little taken aback. She said, "So this is why you said you have nothing to complain about.". He said something to the effect that when he sees what other people have to go through, he realizes how blessed he is, and realizes he really has nothing to complain about.

I have to admit that I too feel I lead a very charmed life. I have occasional troubles and trials, but nothing like what other people have to endure. Sometimes when I talk with others about the trials they have faced, I feel almost embarassed that I haven't had to suffer like that have. My heart goes out to them, but I always wonder if they really believe that I can have empathy when I haven't experienced the trials that they have. I know that I can't understand all of their pain, but there is one thing I think I can offer them. I can't empathize with the hard things they have gone through, but maybe in the same way that they can give me a glimpse in to suffering, I can give them a glimpse of peace.

I think the word complain has a connotation of "whine". I think that is very different from telling someone about your trials. You can talk about troubles and that doesn't mean you are complaining. That is our human way of trying to sort things out and see our way out of them. I think complaining is a term that should be reserved for people like me; people who really, after all, have nothing to complain about.

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