Blessing the Darkness

Pilgrims with a bounteous spread. That’s what we think of and imitate at Thanksgiving when we gather people around us and feast and give thanks. It’s delightful, and gratitude comes easy on that day.

But how do we really put that into practice every day? Think about this: The pilgrims were ill and malnourished. They’d had a harsh first winter. Only about half of the Mayflower’s original passengers lived to see that first spring. But they had learned to plant corn, and after a successful harvest in 1621, they celebrated and gave thanks for what they did have.

Even when life is hard—and it often is—true happiness comes when we are grateful for the good parts.

The late Cavett Robert, a popular motivational speaker and the founder of the National Speakers Association, used to tell of a poignant experience that taught him this very thing.

He was running late after a speaking engagement in New Orleans. The meeting had run overtime, jeopardizing Cavett’s chances of catching his flight home. He completed his speech in the grand ballroom of the Fairmont Hotel, then rushed through the convention center and ran to catch the next elevator going down to the ground level.

Once on the elevator, he tapped the “G” button repeatedly, hoping it would hurry the process of closing the doors. As soon as it began its descent, he checked his watch. He could still make his flight if there were no delays with the elevator or the taxi. Just when he thought his luck was going to hold, he felt the elevator slowing for the third floor.

The doors opened, and no one was there. Hurry up! he thought to himself. Hearing someone coming, he impatiently called out, “Hurry—elevator going down!” Then he saw the red tip of a white cane tap-tap into the doorway.

“I’m sorry; I’ll be right there,” came a humble response. Cavett was crushed with humiliation. As the doors closed, not knowing how to handle the hollow silence, he asked, “Well, how are you today, sir?” His voice was now shaky and embarrassed. The reply came like a heavy blow to his soul: “Grateful, my friend. Grateful.”

Cavett Robert, the great teacher and motivator, was humbled to the dust. Suddenly missing an elevator, a taxi, or even a flight seemed trivial. He would later state, “While in my rude haste I was so caught up in my self-gratification and not an attitude of gratitude that I found myself cursing the light as this gentle man was blessing the darkness.”

He said he was never the same after that experience. In his prayers he asked for help to always realize how important a grateful attitude is in life.

Happy Thanksgiving. May this week be a time for true reflection. Count your blessings. Even if you already know what you’re grateful for, try to find just one more thing. We all have room for more happiness.



Minding Your Ps & Qs

Jackie and I went to Boston a few years back to see the all the history and enjoy a Luther Vandross concert. She loves that guy. (I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t say I gave a little sigh of relief when he went on to sing in the choirs of heaven.) Anyway, one of the many amazing historical sites we visited was a place called Buckman Tavern.

John Buckman was a member of the Lexington Training Band. In those years the tavern was a favorite gathering place for militiamen. On the morning of April 19, 1775, dozens of militiamen gathered in this tavern to await the British troops. Word of their arrival came just before sunrise, and the men left the tavern to assemble in ranks. Both armies gathered. A single shot was fired. To this day, no one knows for sure who fired it, but that shot began the American Revolutionary War.

The original tavern is very small; they’ve now added a store. When Jackie and I went inside, we saw a large fireplace and a few tables. I remember our tour guide pointing to a wall with knife scratches in it and saying, “Here’s where they kept track of their Ps and Qs.”

My mother used to use that phrase. “Mind your Ps and Qs,” she would say. I knew it meant to be good. I thought it meant I should remember to say please and thank you—there’s a P and a Q in that, right? Or maybe it meant that a lowercase p and a lowercase q mirror each other and you need to be careful to use the right one.

So I asked, “Ps and Qs?” She said, “Yes. Pints and quarts.” The knife marks helped patrons keep a running tally of their bills.  If someone started to get out of hand, the bartender would shout, “Mind your Ps and Qs!” to keep them in check.

I’m not sure if the origin of minding your Ps & Qs really came from bars. Maybe it did. I guess it doesn’t matter. I still like it.

Minding your Ps & Qs is really just a way to keep us in check, whatever your own Ps and Qs are. Don’t buy more than you can afford or manage. Always be polite. Be careful with what you’re doing.

If there’s one thing this world needs a little more of, it’s kindness and self control. Just think what could happen if everyone in the world, right now, decided to mind their Ps and Qs.

Saying please and thank you wouldn’t be awkward. People would get out of debt. We would all be kinder to each other. We would work harder. Maybe spend less time in front of a screen.

Let’s start our own revolution and bring back Ps & Qs. We can start in our own families, with our own selves, spouses, and children. Then branch off into other weird places like school, church, ball games, and where we take our dry cleaning.

Even the biggest doors swing on small hinges.