MCKNOTES ON THE COMPLAINT DEPARTMENT
We have a tendency to complain. Lately I’ve heard a number of people saying they’re really tired of cold weather and ready for spring. We haven’t really had much of a winter. I don’t care much for cold weather, but really, can we expect warmer weather in January. It’s too early for spring. It seems that February is often the coldest month. I don’t know the statistics, but I have reconciled that it’s folly to expect spring before March comes along. Traditionally we have a January thaw, so we’ll probably get a bit of a break. As I write this on Sunday morning, we’re headed into fifty degree weather on Monday and Tuesday.
Now we have the price of mailing a letter about which we can complain. Sunday the rate changed to forty-six cents for a first class letter. In September of 1975, the rate for a one ounce letter was ten cents. Can that be true? According to the history of postal rates, that’s exactly true. Can you remember what your take home pay was in 1975? I can’t. Maybe this is just a memory problem.
I marvel at our postal system. To think that I can put a letter in a mailbox in Kirksville that will arrive in California or Hawaii in a few days for only forty-six cents amazes me. I admit that when faced with the comparison of prices from past years, the rates do seem to have grown dramatically, but all of the increases have been from one to four cents at a time.
I bought a two story house in Iowa in about 1973. That house still stands. It has a two-car garage and a large front and back yard. There are six rooms that are typical old farmhouse size, about 16’ X 16’. I don’t remember when the house was built, but it came with central heating and all the other amenities one expects in current housing. That house cost $18,000 back in the mid-seventies. The question is whether or not the price of that house is comparable in growth to the cost of a stamp. The answer is yes. Of course, the house has had a number of upgrades through the years, but I should think it would be worth at least $70 thousand dollars in today’s economy.
I just don’t mind putting a forty-six cent stamp on a letter with the assurance that in a few days it will arrive at the location I have written on the envelope. It’s really kind of a bargain, and if we lose the post office, does anyone really believe that UPS and FedEx are going to carry letters to the door of our friends and family for less than $.46? I use the post office partly to keep it going. I also use UPS and FedEx when I have larger packages. There seems to be room for all of them.
It’s true prices on everything are higher than they used to be. Maybe our wages haven’t kept pace with the rising cost of goods and services, but for people who are really budget conscious, there are all kinds of ways to cut financial corners and still have all the things one needs.
We have libraries where books can be checked out, reduced prices for movies at certain times of the day. I almost never go to a movie when one has to pay full price. I’m a senior citizen now, so I will always get the discount, but if I go to a late move, I’m sure to nod off and miss much of the film I’ve paid to see.
I guess my point is that, sure, things can be expensive, but at least we can get them. There have been periods of time in certain places where one might wait all day for a loaf of bread only to learn that the supply is depleted before they go to the front of the line. This is still true in many places in the world.
In America, we are extremely fortunate. We don’t have to go far to find people who have lives much more difficult than our own. If you’re feeling sorry for yourself, just look around until you find someone in a worse position. I can almost guarantee that you won’t have to look long.
The grass is always greener on the other side. I’m not pretending that I never complain about anything. I’m frustrated when I can’t find strawberries that are worth buying at any cost. Prices are high. The rate we get for our savings seems absurdly low. Why bother at all? The list goes on and on. One can always find something that is less than satisfactory.
At Thanksgiving time we make an effort to remember the things for which we are thankful. That’s really a pretty good way to live all of the time. Maybe it would be good to start each day with a list of things that make us happy. We could even make two lists. One list could be about the unsatisfactory things in our lives. The other list, though, has to be about the good things in life. Wouldn’t that be a good way to start out each day, or each week.
Most importantly, we just need to remember how extremely fortunate we are. I know that we all face disappointments, sorrows and displeasures, but I also know that we can all find something good about which we can spend an equal amount of time ruminating. When in doubt, always remember the old saying: “They told me, ‘Smile, things could be worse.’ So I smiled and things got worse.”