Monday evening, I had car trouble on my way home from work. I was caught off guard and somewhat panicked, thinking I broke something. (For the record, I didn’t.)
As soon as I saw the warning light and heard the complementary ding, I pulled onto a side road where the car then came to a complete stop without my permission.
With a line of cars building up behind me, I tried several times to start the car again, but it wouldn’t budge. I eventually got out and called Pete as cars began driving around me on the one-lane road. (One lady took out a small sapling in the median.)
The remainder of the evening had several downsides:
- The obvious one: overall inconvenience
- The 3 hours we waited on a tow truck
- A growing annoyance with technology following computer and phone issues earlier in the day
- The dogs eating dinner 3 hours later than normal
- Getting home after 10, which meant going to bed late—again
- It was the only evening this week I didn’t have something planned, and the evening was shot
But as we waited, I also started listing the good things in my head:
- The forecast showed rain, but it wasn’t raining
- Fortunately, my car warned me of its impending nap just in time for me to get off a busy road
- 20 or so people stopped to ask if I needed help or had someone to call
- One guy finally got my car in neutral while another pushed it out of the way in his nice work clothes
- Because I was on my way home later than usual and parked under a row of trees, it wasn’t hot anymore
- Pete, who was scheduled for dinner with a friend on the same side of town, was relatively close by
- With time to kill, the two of us got to eat dinner together, and on top of that, I had a gift card that made dinner free
- We won’t have to pay anything to get it fixed since it’s under warranty
- I had good company while the two of us waited
- I had nowhere to be (besides home, but that’s every day)
- And with no other demands on my time, I had a chance to roll down the windows in Pete’s car, feel the breeze, listen to crickets and stick my bare feet out the window as the last traces of sun disappeared
Yes, I got impatient. Yes, I wanted to go home. But I was also grateful. It was one of those “make lemonade” moments, where an annoying inconvenience forced me to stop, take in the beauty around us and appreciate strangers’ willingness to help.
I like to think I’m an optimist, but sometimes seeing the glass half full doesn’t come easily, especially when misfortunes or aggravations come one right after the other. But, as the saying goes, (and this is my last cliché), it could always be worse.
If you look up “gratitude” in the dictionary, you might find this definition:
Grat·i·tude: a feeling of appreciation or thanks
But it’s not just a feeling; it’s also a choice we make. Maybe it’s a choice to look on the bright side or to count your blessings when you don’t feel like it (I lied about the cliché thing). Maybe it’s recalling all the good things in the past instead of dwelling on the negative of the present. Or maybe, for today, it’s a choice to focus more on the rustling trees overhead than on the idle car flashing its emergency lights.