“See! I told you you need to remember that somebody always has it worse than you!” the woman next to us chided her precocious teenage daughter. The daughter in turn rolled her eyes, sighed, and mumbled, “Isn’t that the truth.” Taken aback but not altogether shocked, I raised my eyebrows and hoped she saw my less than enthused look. While I do believe we should all remember to be thankful for the gifts in our lives, we do not need to do so by comparing our lives to the struggles of others especially when in ear shot of the individual who is your apparent barometer.
We all have struggles in our lives. Some of us just have bigger mountains to scale than others. Saying, “Look how awesome your life is! You could have their life and wouldn’t that stink!” is essentially what the woman meant. To that girl, you could have been comparing broccoli to brussle sprouts. She needs to see the beauty in her life.
It is easier to feel sorry for yourself than it is to find the beauty that is in your life. It is easier to complain than compliment, to shout than whisper, to hate than love. In this house we do not believe you must be happy all the time. That’s impractical. We also don’t just expect people to be happy. Here is a secret I have learned though. Happiness isn’t something that just happens. You actually have to work at being happy. Note, anxiety and depression are real medical conditions that this house completely respects. I don’t believe those battling these things can just “think themselves happy.” Happiness just doesn’t happen to you.
While Braden’s life is full of obstacles, set backs, complications, and even sadness and anger, he also has much beauty. He has a laugh that can make your heart swell, an immense sense of humor, a fervent love of music, is brave beyond measure, and has a heart as big as Texas. We remind him all the time that while he does have struggles, he is fortunate to be surrounded with people that love him. He has legs and lungs that fail him but he has a heart, a voice, and a mind that he can put to good use. Those who face struggles or are disabled do not have lesser lives. They just have different lives. I am not exactly sure why she simply assumed their life was better. What constitutes better anyway? It is a relative term.
The lesson should not be that it is ok to be condescending, to believe your life is better than anyone else’s, or that it is ok to be judgmental, insensitive, and rude. The lesson should be that you must look and seek out happiness. It will be our goal to teach all of our children to use their own dreams as their barometer to happiness not to look to gauge their happiness based on the lives and struggles of others.