The irony of complaint

Yesterday I sat in the doctor’s office going through my umpteenth visit trying to get a solution to the pain that is stopping me from running and I thought about our students here at school and the irony of my complaints.

Today is “ugly sweater day” at school. Many of our students don’t even have more than a few shirts, so purchasing an “ugly sweater” wasn’t something that would be an option. Sheila teaches ESOL so the students aren’t from here and did not even know what this meant. I went to visit the class, we pulled up examples of “ugly sweaters” on the smart board and the funniest thing happened.

The kids LOVED them. As in. “OOOH THAT’S BEAUTIFUL.” Excitement, not getting the fact that these were supposed to be something you would NEVER wear.

They LOVED this one
They LOVED this one

Sheila had gone to Wegmans and they donated a bunch of paper bags, and her co-teacher and her cut them up into vests for the students. Then they brought in all the art supplies they could find and the kids got to create their own ugly sweaters.


A way for them to participate! The kids loved it. Creating something that they could wear on ugly sweater day. A paper grocery bag. They thought it was amazing. (Shme will prob be all like “hey this is my story to tell”) but I have free time and a computer muahahah.



So I sat in that office yesterday and I thought about the complaint….. I have not run since May. I have tried a few times. I even did 5 miles of run/walk one day for an event I was refusing to miss.

I have complained a number of times, even though I have things I can do other than running. 1. Bike 2. Gym. 3 yoga  4. Anything I want.

Literally anything I want I can do.

I listen to the “complaints” about America. I hear our President elect say how “bad” things are and I think, “we have no clue”. Many of our students came from a place where if they stayed they would be murdered because they were not the “right” religion. Many of our students came from a place that no longer exists because of bombs (many times our own bombs). Many lived in tents, in refugee camps. Many are here for the same reasons our families came – For a better life.

Yesterday a tiny little new student was in the lunch room. I believe he is first grade or Kinder. I noticed him trying to jam a pear in to his boots. I went over and he was fearful, hiding the pear behind his back as if he did not have it. I said, let me see that. He said “No, do not take” starting to cry. The pear was getting mooshed up. I said “What are you doing” almost laughing, not getting it in the moment. He said “take home. Take home for family” I could tell this boy was hungry. I grabbed a bag, took his smooshed pear. Gave him a bunch of new ones in the bag and a new one for him and said “take these home, and eat this one.” A huge smile came across his face as he bit into it, gave me a sloppy pear mooshed hug and ran back to his table clutching the bag of pears.

So we complain that “our taxes are too high” or “The food isn’t organic” or “The schools don’t have high-speed internet” or that there is some mythical “War on Christmas” or for me recently that the firewood we had delivered and split for us….. yep… split and delivered….. wasn’t “seasoned enough.”

Holy shit. America is so good that we complain, at length, and create policy in detail to attack or fix “problems” that much of the world sees as a luxury. We have it so good we can forget that other people have problems that make our problems seem like something they would want. “I would love to get taxed like you do.”

I went to a doctor to get my legs fixed, so I could do something for leisure (run) that some people have to do to live. (See, the lost boys of Sudan). I am in charge of not 1, but 2 trail running companies. I write for magazines covering leisure events…. and they pay me for it!!!

The irony of this is insane. In the moment it is hard to realize how stupid our complaints are. It really is. I sit back though and try to reflect at least once a day. Where can I improve? What was my role in a situation that had drama? How can I make it better? Sometimes my stubbornness and/or ego gets in the way, and sometimes I make changes. It’s a process.



Yesterday that happened in real-time and I think I made steps towards changing.

Today the kids paraded around the school. Beaming with pride as they went class to class to show off their very own “ugly sweaters.”



I had an opportunity to interview for a promotion at work this week. It would have made our move to the new house even easier. The stress would have likely been less. The director called me personally and asked why I did not apply. I am likely the most qualified candidate they would find (even if I was not hired).

I couldn’t leave these kids like that though. Half way through the year. Surrounded by teachers who often complain about their jobs, the students, the pay, and the school. I couldn’t leave. These kids deserve, on the ground level, to have someone who cares, and I don’t see enough people who do. I just don’t.

I learn from these kids every day and the most important thing I am learning is appreciation. I am not going anywhere, there is too much work to do.

That’s my complaint for today – We aren’t doing enough to fix what we can. You have it really good America, please remember that.



7 thoughts on “The irony of complaint

  1. Pingback: The irony of complaint | Dan Lopata

  2. Pingback: On who we are – Emerging Trail

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