Learn to appreciate what you have

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Chuck Metrolis
  • 31st Rescue Squadron commander
Is it just me, or does there appear to be an increased amount of complaining coming from the American populous?

Like most Americans, I get my news from the TV, radio or print media, and lately all I get is a lot of negativity about how bad someone's life really is.

I'll be the first to admit there were times when I was right there with the complainers. I can remember as a child, teenager and young Airman complaining about the tribulations in my life, that to me were paramount, but in reality more or less inconveniences. I was sure to complain if I didn't make it to lunch on time, get enough sleep or have enough money.

Education and experience, both of which came with age, taught me to reflect on life and truly appreciate the good fortune I had. One of the tools that helped me appreciate my surroundings was to compare my perceived woes to those around me. My eyes became open to the true problems many face in the world. When many of us feel like we have a legitimate gripe, just think about the examples below. Maybe we don't have it that bad after all.

Ever feel like you are bored because you have nothing to do or no one to do it with? Just think about former Navy Lieutenant Everett Alvarez Jr. He was shot down over North Vietnam on Aug. 5, 1964. He endured eight-and-a-half years of brutal captivity, while spending more than one year of this time in solitary confinement. He was not freed until April 1973.

Ever hear people complaining about how hungry they are because they are late for lunch? Think back a few years ago to those young U.S. Marines pushing toward Baghdad along a 300-mile invasion route. They were advancing so quickly they left much of their resupply structure in their wake. This forced many to eat only one MRE per day for about a week. Eating one meal a day is tough, but think about doing this while sprinting in full gear, in the spring heat of Iraq while being used for target practice.

Think you are inconvenienced because you have to sit in that middle seat on an airliner? Just do a little research on what the African slaves had to endure on an eight-week oceanic trip from Africa to the Colonies in the 1700s, or what Jewish Holocaust survivors experienced while being transported by rail to concentration camps during World War II. Somehow our middle seat doesn't even compare to being stacked like cord wood.

I'm sure many of you have heard spouses complain during PCS moves, wondering how he or she will fit 15,000 pounds of household goods into their 2,500 square foot home. Right now the 1,000,000 people in Southeast Asia left homeless by the 2004 tsunami would love to have that same problem.

Upset because you look in your closet and have nothing to wear? There are hundreds of thousands of your fellow Americans relying on charity, gifts or handouts because they lost everything during Hurricane Katrina.

Are you really upset because you don't think you make enough money? Try watching the recent film "Cinderella Man". You will see how boxing legend James J. Braddock provided for a family of five during the Depression Era. Trust me, there were thousands more like him who had it even worse.

I know we as Americans will always complain about something. This is one of our inalienable rights our forefathers fought and died for. However, we should look at our own inconveniences through a different lens, and see how our problems look from different perspectives. We may see that our problems pale in comparison to many around us. In fact, we may seize the opportunity to seek change or help those less fortunate. We recently celebrated the life and contributions of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. We should reflect upon a great individual who had much to complain about, but instead sought to better the lives of all Americans.