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  • Writer's pictureRichard Parrish

Hope for Mr. Grumpy

There’s time to get Mom’s groceries and get home to meet my writing deadline, I thought.

I wasn’t counting on a delay due to an ungrateful customer.

Shopping for my 98-year-old mother-in-law is something I enjoy doing. Each Friday morning, I place a phone call to her: “Good Morning, Betty. Do you know what day it is?” I ask.

Then, with a smile on my face, loud enough to be heard through my voice, I remind her: “It’s Friday, and I get to go to the grocery store for you. I can’t wait!”

After writing down the items she has on her list, I listen as she tells me how sorry she is that I have to do her grocery shopping for her.

I continue to listen as she tells me of how she hates being a burden (losing her independence isn’t easy for Betty — or any of us). Waiting for the right moment in the conversation, I cheerfully tease her saying:

“I know, Betty, you abuse me so much. You’re such a pain!”

Then, we both laugh.

Betty makes sure the call does not end before she thanks me. Her expression of gratitude is sincere — and meaningful.

After checking off all the items on Betty’s list, I was pleased to find a short line at one of the check-out registers. But short does not always mean fast.

It took less than a minute before I became annoyed at a man arguing with the cashier over a 30-cent price difference on an item he was purchasing. His rude behavior brought tears to her eyes. I thought This guy could learn a lot about gratitude from Betty.

I enjoy grocery shopping for my mother-in-law. It’s fulfilling to know I can help her. Although I had a schedule to keep, getting mom’s groceries was the least I could do for her.

But all it took was one irritated customer, and this grateful son-in-law became Mr. Grumpy!

I’ve never heard God speak to me audibly. But the thought I had at that moment was so forceful that I knew God was talking to me:

It’s not “that guy” who needs to learn a lot about gratitude!

When Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, I doubt he had a “frustrated son-in-law” shopping for his mother-in-law in mind. But his words apply just the same:

“… give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

Paul’s words are insightful. He’s not saying be grateful for the circumstance.

Many today face circumstances that are incredibly unpleasant, foreboding, and difficult to endure. We may not like the situation we find ourselves in, and we may be desperate to find relief.

Tim Keller says it well:

“Gratitude is what you feel. Thanksgiving is what you do.”

Self-entitlement (the belief one deserves unearned rights or privileges) does not encourage a “grateful heart”; it focuses on the circumstance.

Things are happening all the time we can’t control. But we always have a choice to be thankful or not.

The irritated customer left. I smiled at the cashier and acknowledged how patient she had been. I expressed how sorry I was that she had to tolerate his anger.

“Thank you for your patience,” she said.

Little did she know how God had used her uncomfortable situation to teach me an important lesson.

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