Grate­ful­ness in spring­time or any time

The Weekly Vista - - Opinion - DAVID WIL­SON

In Ar­kan­sas and in many other states through­out this re­gion, the weather in the spring­time can be un­pre­dictable, some­times fluc­tu­at­ing wildly from one day to the next, or even from one hour to the next.

We joke about it, say­ing things like, “If you don’t like the weather in Ar­kan­sas just wait a minute.”

We talk about it with in­credulity. “Can you be­lieve how fast the tem­per­a­ture changed?”

We some­times com­plain about it. “I can’t stand this. Yes­ter­day I was wear­ing shorts and a t-shirt. To­day I had to get my heavy win­ter coat back out.”

But there was one weather-re­lated is­sue on May 22, 2011, that I will never for­get be­cause it was far more se­ri­ous than jok­ing or com­plain­ing.

As one of the prin­ci­pals on the ad­min­is­tra­tive team at Jef­fer­son City High School in Jef­fer­son City, Mo., I was work­ing with the oth­ers as we hur­riedly tran­si­tioned the high school grad­u­a­tion cer­e­mony from the spa­cious foot­ball sta­dium to the less than ad­e­quate school gym­na­sium.

Each year we had to have a backup plan ready to go be­cause in Mis­souri, just like in Ar­kan­sas, one never knows what kind of weather to ex­pect in the spring.

The JCHS class of 2011 would have to grad­u­ate in­doors un­der con­di­tions that were far from ideal.

Rainy and stormy weather was mov­ing in that day, and the cer­e­mony was set for 5 p.m.

It was much more crowded in­side the gym and not ev­ery­one could get a seat. And be­cause of fire and safety reg­u­la­tions, some peo­ple could not even be al­lowed in at all. In ad­di­tion, it be­came hot and un­com­fort­able in the gym dur­ing the com­mence­ment. Most peo­ple un­der­stood that the weather was bad out­side and that in­side there sim­ply wasn’t enough room.

Most peo­ple also un­der­stood that the com­mu­nity did not have an in­door fa­cil­ity that could hold 4,000-plus peo­ple.

But still, on the day of grad­u­a­tion, and for a few days af­ter­wards, com­plaints con­tin­ued. We heard many: I don’t know why they can’t do something dif­fer­ent for grad­u­a­tion be­sides that gym.

They know ev­ery year that the sta­dium may not be avail­able. Can’t we have a bet­ter ar­range­ment than that hot gym­na­sium?

It’s just ridicu­lous that ev­ery fam­ily mem­ber can’t get in to see the grad­u­a­tion.

Be­ing that crowded and that hot is just mis­er­able.

Our high school is com­pletely in­ad­e­quate. Why can’t they do something about it?

In the midst of all of the com­plaints some­one said, “At least we have a high school and ev­ery­one is safe. Jo­plin doesn’t even have a high school any­more.”

On the same day of Jef­fer­son City’s grad­u­a­tion cer­e­mony, a ter­ri­ble tor­nado dev­as­tated the

south­ern por­tion of Jo­plin, Mo., killing 158 peo­ple. Many more were in­jured. Sev­eral struc­tures, in­clud­ing Jo­plin High School, were de­stroyed.

In re­mem­ber­ing that, all the com­plaints about grad­u­a­tion in Jef­fer­son City sud­denly be­came point­less.

Once again we are in the time of year in which the weather may be dis­ap­point­ing, or even dan­ger­ous. In ad­di­tion, some of you may soon be at­tend­ing a high school grad­u­a­tion cer­e­mony in which the space and the seat­ing are com­pletely in­ad­e­quate.

But be­fore com­plain­ing, just re­mem­ber that things could po­ten­tially be a lot worse.

For that mat­ter, the sim­ple les­son from 2011 could ap­ply to al­most any other is­sue in life.

Is there something you are tempted to com­plain about this week?

Be­fore think­ing something is hor­ri­ble, or in­con­ve­nient, or just plain un­pleas­ant, we should stop.

If we com­pare how a sit­u­a­tion is with how bad it could be, all com­plaints sud­denly lose any air of va­lid­ity.

In fact, the grip­ing might dis­ap­pear com­pletely.

And the void that is left can be filled with grate­ful­ness, grat­i­tude, ap­pre­ci­a­tion, and a thank­ful heart.

It is the most ap­pro­pri­ate way to look at things any­way, es­pe­cially if we face something that might cause us to com­plain.


David Wil­son, EdD, of Spring­dale, is a writer, con­sul­tant and pre­sen­ter, who grew up in Ar­kan­sas but worked 27 years in ed­u­ca­tion in Mis­souri. You may e-mail him at The opin­ions ex­pressed are those of the au­thor.

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