For a couple years in the early days of our marriage Paul and I attended a predominately African-American Pentecostal church. I say predominately African-American because there were a couple of white people who attended: Paul and I. We loved that church. The people were so gracious, the music was extraordinary and the preaching was really excellent, we just didn’t have the stamina for the sometimes four hour services. Our pastor was a wonderful man, from a well known family of singers. He too was an accomplished singer with a signature song, “I Won’t Complain.” I can’t remember the verses but the bulk of the song was simply the line “I won’t complain.” The Bishop would just let it rip.
The first many times he sang it I loved it. It is a powerful song of trust and perseverance and the man could sing. Then I got pregnant and it was summer and the church didn’t have air conditioning and the service would have gone on for well over three hours, we would have sung ourselves hoarse, been preached upside and down, an ambulance been called to haul away an exuberant worshipper, the offering taken, the bulletin read in it’s entirety and just when you were thinking (OK, Paul and I were) the closing prayer was going to be prayed, the Bishop would say, “Sister Somebody from Kalamazoo is visiting and specially requested ‘I Won’t Complain'” and then the music would start and another half hour of our lives would be gone.
Although it has been a decade since we heard that song it has been floating through my head in regular intervals, “I won’t. I won’t I WON’T I WON’T COMPLAAAAAAAAIN! No I won’t….”
I am feeling compelled to stop complaining. God is inviting me to shut up and I have said, “OK.” as:
1.It is bad manners.
2.I am 35, a mother and must set a good example for the children.
3.God isn’t keen on it.
4.A life without whininess would be something new.
I am a few days into it and having the man in India probably wasn’t a good time to start but when is, when you get right down to it. So I have been making it through, taking things slowly and keeping my chin up. Paul was due back today at 3:26 pm which was perfect because the kids’ gymn class ended at 3:15 and was less than ten minutes from the airport. He called at 2:00 to warn me of a ten minute delay then at 3:00 to say it had been pushed back an hour. I called the airline at 3:30 and confirmed that the flight was still due in at the adjusted time of 4:26. I thought about driving home, which would take 15 minutes and only give me around a half hour. Today was a cold and rainy day. I decided (foolishly) to kill time with the kids at a store and then buzz down to the airport. By the time I got parked and dragged everyone inside I really only had a little over 20 -30 minutes to kill some place. I was considering Target, when I spotted Salvation Army and decided to pop in. Fool. Fool. Fool.
We looked at toys and books and housewares and just when we made it to women’s jeans the Bean realized she hadn’t had a nap and wanted to be held. It was 4:08. I called the airline and learned the time had been pushed back to 5:00. Regardless, we had to leave.
Coming in I had decided to leave my purse in the car and stuck my wallet in my pocket. Doing this I forgot to grab my keys. I patted all my pockets as we stood outside the locked van, cold rain pelting our faces. Peering in the windows I saw my keys dangly merrily from the ignition.
Would someone please congratulate me on not uttering an expletive?
I ushered my tired and bedraggled party across the parking lot and back into the Army. We staggered to the register and I requested a phone book. I called AAA and secured a tow truck. They promised to be there no later than 5:13. I didn’t think there was anything in me left unwilted but something did and in a very strained voice I mentioned that I was waiting with three children and that we were trying to pick up my husband from the airport.
“Oh dear.” The AAA agent said.
“Oh dear.” I agreed.
She promised to pass on a request for speed.
I bought a box of cookies. Can you imagine cookies purchased at a Salvation Army? I searched for a sale by date but couldn’t find one and frankly, my colleagues were beyond caring.
We sat on the floor (!) by the front windows and I began doling out the cookies. Beanie wanted to grab her own and I said no while handing her a couple more. She promptly threw them on the floor. I grabbed her and tapped her on the face (I SWEAR it was not a smack) she promptly burst into tears and so I rocked her and gently pushed back her hair and wiped the tears from her dear and naughty face and almost laughed that I had given up complaining.
Then, by some miracle, the phone rang. It was the tow truck: he had made it in less than ten minutes. And some of you don’t believe in God…
So we hustled out into the freezing rain, where I signed the form allowing him to touch my van and then we all huddled around him (I tried to keep a polite distance as no one likes to work with four people breathing down his neck) while he did the job, and do it he did. Being the Smart Girl, I started the van promptly to make sure it would and the driver caught my eye.
“The last lady who locked her keys in ran down the battery.”
I smiled smugly. I wasn’t going to be fooled like that: one call to AAA a day is my limit.
It was now 4:45. I called the airline one last time and learned the flight was holding at 5:00. As it was 15 minutes out I felt comfortable that this was solid and so quickly drove to the airport, unloaded, ran through the rain, carrying Eden and hurried up to the proper concourse. I looked at the Arrival and Departure board just to get a boost and saw next to Paul’s flight number,
“Arrived” and then realized it was the wrong line and that next to Paul’s was “1720” which was 5:20 and then I seriously thought about packing the kids up and asking Paul to get a taxi.
Limply I followed the kids to the Game Room. I actually walked through the glass door but hearing the noise and seeing the lights I instantly felt murderous and backed out. The room was small and all glass so I was able to slump against a wall outside the room and watch my kids as they happily sat on the various games and pretended to play. It would have been perfect except for the baggie khakis that Beanie was wearing. Her “Big Guhs” today were especially big so they slipped right down with her pants which meant that everytime I looked up she was flashing half the airport. I would stagger to my feet, go in the room, hitch up her pants, stagger back to my post, relax and then notice she had shifted and so had her modesty.
At this point I began to wonder if Paul’s flight was going to keep getting delayed in 20 minute increments until Beanie grew into her pants or we all wasted away. I was hungry, too warm and very tired.
I remembered a friend I needed to call. By some miracle she was home and able to talk. She was in a moment, having had a long day and her husband working the weekend. She wasn’t complaining and I told her a little of my adventures and my resolution to not complain. I told her I needed to work out the difference between reporting and complaining. She assured me I was only reporting. That is a friend.
Paul’s flight eventually landed. They had boarded his briefcase underneath so he had to wait for that and was one of the last people off. The kids all shrieked, “Daddy!” and Beanie almost tripped someone running right in front to get to Paul. Then we were all there, hugging and laughing.
We haven’t had a lot of time to talk between dinner, Movie Night, the giving of gifts, getting the kids into bed and Paul passing out, but he did tell me a little about his trip. He couldn’t believe the traffic – the amount of cars, the noise and the rush of beggars, especially children, at every stoplight. The first little girl who approached his car looked strikingly like one of our neices, “…except her hair was all dirty and messy.”
This little girl gestured for a hand out. When it became plain that none was forthcoming she stomped her feet then did a couple flips in front of the car, landing perfectly with both hands out in a begging flair.
“Were you told not to give?” Thinking, ‘How could you say no to a little Indian Eva?’
“We were strongly encouraged not to…”
We both got a little teary-eyed.
So this not complaining thing might take a little work, a bit of an adjustment but I think it is worth it because:
5. When you are the one sitting in the car and not the one doing flips in front of it; it’s just stupid to complain – ever.