David Whitlock, Dec. 16

Published 8:28 am Tuesday, December 20, 2016

He never had a bad day


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“I really don’t have a whole lot to say about him,” I said to my wife as I returned from the funeral visitation. Then I paused and added, almost as a trivial aside, “Other than the fact that he was a man who never had a bad day. And never complained.”
“A man who never complained,” she responded. “That in itself is enough. What a rare and wonderful legacy to leave.”
She was right; I had almost missed what was perhaps the most significant characteristic of this man’s life. It is a rare trait. We’ve all attended funerals where we’ve known the opposite about the deceased. I’ve never done it, but there are funerals I’ve presided over where I could have said, “Won’t it be nice not to have to hear this dearly departed soul complaining anymore?”
You know the kind. You duck in the next aisle when you see them in the grocery story. If you have caller ID, you wait for a voice mail, so you won’t be caught off guard by the complaint they will likely leave.
I recall a cartoon where a pastor is standing, droop-shouldered, in the entry of his house. “I thought you were going to be home an hour ago,” his wife says to him. “What happened?
And with an exhausted look on his face, he says, “I asked Ms. Johnson how she was doing.”
Not so about the man whose funeral I was preaching. A co-worker said of him: “I worked with the man for 30 years, and I can honestly say, he never had a bad day.”
How can you work for thirty years and never have a bad day? Even the best of jobs carry with them the possibilities for all kinds of circumstances that can bring us a bad day.
“How’s your day been?”
“It’s been a BAD day.”
And we settle down to hear why before telling about our BAD day. Sharing our misery can become a habit that feeds more gloom.
All kinds of things cause us to have a bad day, from the leaky faucet to the disgruntled employee to the bad weather.
Bad days occur easily enough; the challenge is finding a way NOT to have a bad day.
The key? Not complaining. And the only way to do that is to look for the good, or at least see the larger, better picture in the not so good, or downright bad.
The man who had died didn’t enjoy particularly good health towards the end of his life, and his wife had suffered a tragic death.
Still, he apparently never complained.
Looking for the good, even in sad events, and seeing a larger purpose, frees you to live more fully in the present.
Life is filled with people, and people make mistakes. The earth we live in is imperfect, too. You can either smile and look for the positive in that or grimace and grumble through it.
That doesn’t mean we pretend the bad isn’t there or don’t try and improve ourselves or our circumstances. Instead, refusing to complain sets off creative sparks within us.
Holocaust survivor and Christian writer Corrie ten Boom told of visiting a weaver’s school where the students were making beautiful patterns. She asked a student, “When you make a mistake, must you cut it out and start from the beginning?”
The student answered, “No. Our teacher is such a great artist that when we make a mistake, he uses it to improve the beauty of the pattern.”
Instead of complaining about how someone else failed, that teacher responded in a positive fashion, creating something good from a mistake.
Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr expressed the “never have a bad day” attitude in a prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardship as the pathway to peace.”
Perhaps we should pray for the strength to pray that pray.
It won’t guarantee that bad things won’t happen to you.
But it would certainly empower you with the attitude necessary to live a good one.

Contact Dr. David Whitlock at drdavid@davidwhitlock.org, or visit his website www.davidwhitlock.org.