Drowning the Gratitude Jar
August 29, 2013
I woke this morning at 4:45am, not because I have to but, because I seem to flourish in the early hours of each day. I usually take Rooney, our mixed terrier, outside for a few moments and I return to make coffee so Bill can have a fresh pot waiting for him when he wakes. I prefer one of those new fancy Keurig single cup coffee makers.
This morning I know I have learned a lesson, but I am not certain what it is, so I have taken to writing to organize and clear my thoughts.
You see I decided, while making coffee in the Keurig, to quickly fill a mug with water and add it to the coffee maker reservoir. At the same time, in my sleepless state I reminded myself that I needed to write out a thought of gratitude for my gratitude jar. Somewhere in those two thought processes, I got the wires crossed in my sleepy brain and poured 12 ounces of water in my gratitude jar soaking each tiny slip of paper. I have hundreds now having started the jar last November.
My first reaction was to dump the water quickly. Having done that, I grabbed two kitchen towels and began methodically and carefully peeling each slip from the watery clump of soaked paper. As I did that, I kept hearing the thought, "salvage what you can." In the midst of a foolish mistake, I was given a focus. "Salvage what you can!"
As I methodically worked to ease one soaked slip from another I realized how unneccessary it is to criticize ourselves when we make mistakes. There should be a manual for forgiveness and focus issued to each of us for those times when things seem so foolish and appear to be a disaster.
Step one seems to always be to say, "You idiot!" But why are we programmed that way? Why is criticism even part of a mistake. I cannot tell you the number of times I witnessed parents, usually rushed to drop off kids at school and to get to work, who realized the child forgot to grab something on the way out of their house and into the classroom. Often the forgotten item was a packed lunchbox. The first reaction when the child said, "Mom, I forgot my lunchbox!", was to say "I told you so!" or "I can't trust you to remember anything!" or "You'd forget your head if it weren't screwed on to your shoulders". When you looked at the child you could feel the shame, embarrassment and deep sadness over disappointing her parent.
This morning I revisited those first feelings of recognition when you realize you have made a mistake. Those first feelings revolve around, "What am I going to do now?" and "Why did I do that?"
There is no room for criticism or degrading thoughts and comments when a mistake occurs. The manual on how to deal with mistakes in life should begin with: focus on what can be done to make this as right as possible. "Salvage what you can!"
So I gently separated the slips in the darkness of my own kitchen not knowing when the sun rises what I will face. There is a possibility the ink has smeared and my thoughts of gratitude are lost, but there's also a chance they have been saved in time to make choices later as to what can be done now.
How we treat ourselves and others in making mistakes should have rules. As Christians, the first step we need to take is to throw out negative words of criticism in our homes. There is no need in a moment when mistakes take over normalcy that we should go to degrading ourselves or others.
Our first step should be to "Salvage what we can" and the second should be to make a plan for how to move forward. For me and my slips of gratitude, I am going to let them dry and I will evaluate what I have with the morning sunlight.
For the little Kindergartener who forgot her lunchbox, I often intervened by quickly offering to pay for the child to have a school lunch and the parent could pay me back within the week. As the mother rushed out of my classroom still fuming, I followed close behind and said, " You are leaving your daughter feeling embarrassed and hurt that she has let you down. Go back in there and hug her, tell her you love her, smile at her and tell her to have a great day!"
There is no need for words of criticism in a world when mistakes are normal parts of our lives. As the day goes by today, I encourage you to pay attention to your own thoughts and whether or not you use words of criticism on yourself or others. Ask God to remove angered criticism from your walk with Christ and from your home. We are called to be gentle, humble, kind, caring and at peace. There is no excusable reason and no room for degrading ourselves or others.
I began my early morning hours by dumping a gigantic glass of water all over small, colorful slips of paper in my gratitude jar and I gained insight into how we can positively handle the mistakes in ourselves and with others. All in all, there was little lost and a whole lot gained.
Dear Heavenly Father,
We are prone to make mistakes on a daily basis. In those times, please call our first reactions which lead us to criticize and replace them with thoughts to "salvage what we can" and to "make a plan" on how to make things right, again. You ask us to forgive others and that includes times when we feel frustrated and upset. Teach us to feel your presence and to seek your calmness in the tiny storms of life,
In Jesus' Name,
As a footnote: I returned to the two towels covered with soaked pieces of gratitude and discovered, they all dried and are fine. I dried out the gratitude jar and placed the slips back in the jar. All is well.