Gratefulness in springtime or any time
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 email@example.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.