February 7, 2014

It’s All Good / Patti Lamb

Take time to acknowledge God’s blessings each day

Patti LambI stood in line recently at the customer service desk at a grocery store. One man was miffed that he had been overcharged for a case of soda. The disgruntled woman behind him didn’t like the fact that the cashier had missed the “dollar off” coupon affixed to her tortilla chips.

When it was my turn and I asked to buy postage stamps, I jokingly asked the clerk if the “Customer Service” sign should be changed to “Complaints.”

The next morning, I witnessed a similar scene in our school secretary’s office where I stopped to pick up a form. Several others were ahead of me, all with items needing attention: The upstairs water fountain wasn’t working. The copy machine was malfunctioning again. An urgent fax needed to go out ASAP, but the fax machine wasn’t cooperating. The list continued. The school librarian walked in and also noticed the hectic and complaint-laden morning.

Just then, a long line of bright-eyed first grade students proudly marched by—one actually galloped by—her office on the way to lunch. They waved and smiled, many with toothless grins and giggles. It was like a parade of light.

Upon seeing their cheerful faces, the librarian whispered to me, “A lot of great things happen at this school every day.” She continued, “There are a lot of things we do well; I only wish we could take care to notice what’s right instead of what’s not.” Her eyes looked in the direction of the problematic fax machine.

“Amen,” I said.

Sometimes it feels like people are conditioned to point out what’s wrong instead of what’s right.

I do it all the time. I catch myself reprimanding or criticizing my kids—or my husband—when they do something I don’t like. I bark: “You were late!” or “Your writing is sloppy!”

I need to make a more concerted effort to tell them what they’re doing right.

Years ago, I had a coach who had a knack for understanding the balance between offering criticism and providing encouragement. Coach would remind me of the proper technique, but not without acknowledging my effort. The times when I managed to perform well—even at something minor—were quietly celebrated. The occasional “atta girl” went a long way. Somewhere along the way, I’ve conditioned myself not to look on the bright side.

God calls us to be bringers of light. “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father” (Mt 5:16). Despite this world’s injustice, senseless violence and unfairness, we are on a mission to spread the good news of God’s love and victory.

The challenge is to march down the hallway like a proud first grader carrying an invisible torch—to find good, and find God, amidst the chaos and ruffled feathers. We can focus on what’s wrong or on what’s right.

My photographer friend demonstrated a similar phenomenon with her camera lens. She said, “It’s amazing that, by slightly adjusting the focus of my lens, the picture becomes completely different.”

Later that week, I discovered a new bulletin board put up in the hallway at my children’s school. It said, “What if you woke up today with only the things you thanked God for yesterday?” The board was full of papers for passers-by to write those blessings for which they’re grateful.

That simple bulletin board message echoed the momentum to focus on what’s right. The world might be brighter if we’d make a concerted effort to acknowledge God’s blessings all around us.

(Patti Lamb, a member of St. Susanna Parish in Plainfield, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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