M.T.M.B…. June 26, 2012

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She situated herself at the edge of the pool in a white deck chair, peering closely at her three young ducklings, splashing away in the water. Seeing us arrive, she apparently judged by our age that we were older and therefor cranky, and warned her children not to splash us when we entered the swimming hole.

I laughed. I told her that if we didn’t want to get wet, we probably should have stayed in our room instead of coming to the pool. She looked at me, a bit surprised, asked me if I was sure, and then returned to her vigil of supervision. Since the children were given permission to scream, they actually ended up screaming less. (I think that’s part of being a kid–if your parents want you to do anything, that’s a good enough reason to do it less or not at all.)

While I swam around, I observed her. I like to observe people–not because I’m nosy but because I’m trying to learn how to make better choices myself and the only way I’ve found to accomplish that is to learn from watching the decisions of others.

She yelled a lot. It’s not easy having three kids. I know–I’ve had them. You’re always concerned that they’re going to hurt themselves or do something stupid or annoy cantankerous folks around you, so you always come off a little over-protective and possibly overly critical.

She was having a bad day. No one should ever be judged–but certainly not when they’re having a bad day. Did I happen to mention that she was also pregnant? So there was going to be another young troubador joining the trio to form a quartet, with her being the underpaid and underappreciated maestro of the traveling troupe. What usually happens at this point is that people who think that they care or want to contribute something of quality resort to offering an opinion, or even worse, advice. It even can begin with the humble approach of, “In my experience … ”

If I could give one pearl of great wisdom to everyone in the world, it would be to avoid opinions and advice nearly at all cost. They are both useless. No one really wants to hear your opinion unless it’s favorable and your advice would require that they submit to your ideas, which human beings rarely do. We like to follow the thoughts that come from our own heads. Good, bad or ugly–it’s true.  So with that in mind I decided to contribute something of worth to this dear woman, who was obviously struggling under a burden beyond my present comprehension.

It’s all about good cheer. Good cheercomes in two forms. You can give it or you can be it. Sometimes the greatest thing you can do for another person is to just cheer ’em on. Take a moment, find something they’re doing well, and just give them a great big hoorah. I told her I thought she was doing a good job with her children and that she was smart to wear them out in the pool so they would get sleepy and have a good night of rest. She was a little shocked, but very appreciative that somebody was encouraging her instead of suggesting different parental approaches.

swimming pool

swimming pool (Photo credit: freefotouk)

I also used the other part of good cheer, staying in a great mood myself the whole time I was in the pool around her children. Humor may be the only answer to every problem–at least to get us started in the direction of resolution. (This is why we, as a race, are heading towards doom–because when confronted with conflict, we choose to become more serious-minded, and therefore, incompetent.)Yes, the two greatest things you can do for other people is cheer for them or bring good cheer in your own attitude.

I have experienced this my whole life. I was once stuck on I-40 in a complete stoppage of traffic because of a major accident. People got out of their cars and started to grump, complain and become fussy with one another. I realized it was going to be a dangerous situation unless some good cheer came in. So I let my sons get out of the car with their Nerf football and start throwing passes back and forth among the cars. Now, some people did complain, but most folks started tossing the ball along with them. In no time at all, the atmosphere changed from pre-Armageddon to “picnic.” All it took was good cheer.

The night that my son, Joshua, was in the hit-and-run accident, I found myself in the emergency room, awaiting the doctors and nurses to report to me, completely absorbed in my own tragedy. Sitting nearby was a mother and her nine-year-old son, who were also waiting for a report on an operation about her husband and his dad. They were tense, nervous and the little fellow was in tears. I didn’t feel like being generous. I was sitting in the ashes of my own devastation, but so was the little boy next to me. So I started up a game of, “I see something blue…” with him. (Honestly, it’s very hard to do in a hospital, considering that most things are beige and off-white.) He started to giggle, and for a necessary juncture, I forgot that my son was lying broken in an examination room. We passed the time together. About an hour later, the surgeon appeared and the little boy’s father had survived the operation. Good cheer won the night.

What we want to avoid are opinions and advice. Opinions are limited to our upbringing and advice has the frailty of being limited by our own personal experience. But good cheer comes from God, and sometimes only a gift from God will satisfy the human need.

My dear woman at the pool left in better sorts, I think. And I departed knowing that the best thing we can do is M.T.M.B.–which, by the way, stands for: Make The Moment Better.

   

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I am so glad to know you, Brenda!

    Like

  2. For most of the street youth that I work with they have never met humor or even know how to enjoy life. They live in negativity and life is survival on the street. They hope from one night to next that they may see another day to see their babies. There is no hope, no love only life in its darkness form. So when I work with these youth, I laugh and cry with them but most of all I give them love. And they respond in a way that they is foreign to them and for one small moment, they are free to be happy. If only those moments could last longer. That’s what it’s all about. Reaching out to others who may not be “normal” but are just like you and I…….children of God. May the force be with you.

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