I thought I’d at least have 20 or 30 more years before I started saying “Kids, these days…” I thought I’d eventually, someday, become the old lady sitting on her porch, surrounded by cats, screaming “Stay off my lawn!” but I thought I had a few more years, 10 at the very least. But it seems lately kids these days exemplify the term “ungrateful.” I work with kids everyday. The other day I mentioned that cell phones didn’t exist until I was in college and one asked, “What did you do if you had to call someone?” Seriously.
“We attached notes to pigeons feet.” I responded. Ungrateful! Kids these days! Stay off my lawn!
(I don’t even have a lawn I live in an apartment.)
I try to be careful when I call myself an optimist. Mostly because I worked with someone a few years ago who called herself “Pollyanna” even though she was the most negative person I’ve ever, ever, ever met. So I’m careful when saying I’m an “eternal optimist” because I might just be the opposite and I don’t even know it.
But I am an optimist so my disgust with ungrateful kids has got to have a silver lining somewhere. Actually, kids these days make me even more grateful.
I remember when I started to be grateful for my parents. I was 17 and I had spent the last few teenage years being completely unbearable. I mean seriously why didn’t someone put me on a boat and set me out to sea? I had been on a roll for a least 3 years when my family was struck by the sudden death of my dad’s father. He had been sick for years with cancer but died very suddenly of a heart attack.
It wasn’t his death that made me grateful. It was his funeral. For the first time I sat on the front row at a funeral. It was the biggest funeral I had ever been to, hundreds of people and they all sat behind me. I sat between my dad and my sister. And I cried. A lot. I cried for the first time at a funeral. I sobbed. I was the one everyone was passing tissue to. Even my grandma didn’t cry as much as I did that day. In one vivid, clear, distinct moment my mom reached over my dad and took my hand and held it tightly and my dad put his arm around me and we were a unit. A broken, sad, grieving unit.
And I was grateful.
I left for college soon after that and I called home almost every single day my first semester, something I swore would never happen once I was out of that “horrible” house. Once I was away from my “terrible, awful, evil” parents I wasn’t even going to call them.
But after that funeral, I never looked at my parents the same way. I don’t know what clicked, or changed, or fixed that day. It almost sounds cliche or silly but it all happened in one day.
It gives me hope, that one day the same will happen to the kids I work with. And they aren’t awful. They’re just kids. Just like I was. I was one kid who had it all and I didn’t know it until I knew it. These kids are the same.
Ungratitude is fleeting. It is a blink the long stare of life. It only goes until it stops and then it stops and the world is different. Maybe it will happen in an instant and the kids these days will remember it for the rest of their lives like me or maybe it will happen slowly and gradually.
I guess my ungratefulness for the kids’ ungratefulness makes me grateful that eventually I became grateful for all I have.
Rev. Jessi L. Higginbotham
Delray Beach, FL