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Admission of the day: I tend to be one of those gripers and complainers who whines about what they have and mopes about what they don’t and, yes, I annoy myself with it.  For example, I’ve always taken for granted having an umbrella.  In small town U.S.A. where I grew up and went to college, umbrellas were like an accessory that no one really needed while running from their car to the mall.  We had five umbrellas in the trunk of one car that we dusted off about twice a year.  In New York City, if you don’t have an umbrella on a rainy day like today you will be one sad, sorry, and soaked individual.  I’m now quite grateful for the $12 umbrella I carry with me everywhere, even on the sunniest of days (and that steep price tag makes me all the more cautious with it).

Being a recent college graduate lost in mountains upon mountains of debt, I realize both the importance and unimportance of having money.  While my service program covers rent, transportation, and grocery costs (thank goodness!), it only leaves me with $50 spending money per month.  In this city in this day and age that’s like enough money to buy half of a pair of shoes.  (Needless to say paying off those looming loans is out the question for the next year).  But somehow, over the last four months, I’ve made that $50 stipend go a lot farther then I ever expected.  I now think a whole lot more about what I really need versus what I want and it has saved me a lot of money (or at least a few dollars here and there). 

And when I find myself complaining about the fact that I can’t buy that overpriced Starbucks latte or go out with my friends because I can’t afford the dinner, I have to give myself a reality check.  I have a roof over my head, a bed to sleep in, my $104 a month metro pass is completely paid for, I don’t have to buy my own groceries, and the list goes on.  Yes, sometimes I’m bitter about the fact that I work 40 hours a week and make virtually nothing, but I have to remind myself that I’m actually lucky to be doing the things that I am.

I think sometimes God finds it hilarious to put me in my place when I’m complaining about something.  Two examples come to mind.  About a month ago I was cleaning the guest bathroom at my house, grumbling about how dirty it was and how much I just wanted to go to bed when a guest came up to me and said, “Thanks so much for doing this.  You’re doing a great job!”  The second example happened just last week while volunteering at the homeless shelter down the street.  It was 6:00 in the morning, I’d had little to no sleep the night before, and I was begrudgingly preparing breakfast for the shelter guests when one woman came up to me with tears in her eyes and said, “You have no idea how much this means to us.  At the drop in center we have to sleep in chairs and are lucky to get a bed.  You don’t know how much this means to us.”

Wow, reality suddenly smacked me in the face…hard.  Here I was, complaining about every little thing under the sun and these two women were grateful for things I took for granted: a clean bathroom and a warm bed.  I don’t mean this to be one of those obnoxious count-your-blessings emails but for goodness’ sake it’s a new year and the least we can do is appreciate what we have, whether we deserve it or not.  Who knows, maybe the next time you’re complaining about how hot the subway ride is or how boring your job can be or how much you want to be able to afford Starbucks (oh wait, those are things I complain about daily!), someone might come your way and give you a healthy dose of reality.  I think I see them coming now!