By Bill Rouhana
Gratitude is the best attitude.
Christmas was always an amazing time in my home when I was growing up. My parents didn't have a lot of money but they were always incredibly generous when it came to giving us presents. In fact, they didn't just give presents to us children. Every year they held a Christmas Eve party and gave all the kids in the neighborhood presents as well.
One year, when I was eight years old, I was hoping against hope that I would get a bike for Christmas. I made it clear in every way I knew how to my parents. I left hints all over the place.
On Christmas morning, we had our normal over-abundance of presents. All of us kids received present after present, with the last present being the "big" one. When we got to the apparent end of the presents I was very upset. My last present had not been the "big" one I had hoped for. There was no bike for me. I blurted out, "Is that all?" The moment I said it I knew I had made a big mistake. That comment would have been inappropriate in any situation but after all those presents it was completely wrong-headed.
My parents looked unhappy, as my disappointment was obvious. I was so upset I didn't even realize how ungrateful I sounded. My entire family felt extremely uncomfortable and was on edge. For a few moments there was nothing but silence around the tree. I started to realize what an idiotic thing I had said. After my parents worked so hard, how could I complain that I did not receive a bike when I had received so many other things?
My parents continued to look very upset, and then something happened that made me feel even worse. My father got up and went outside the living room to the hallway. He came back wheeling the bicycle that they had been planning to give me after all the other presents were distributed.
Now I felt even worse than before — I had gotten the bike but had demonstrated for my parents and my siblings what an ungrateful person I actually was. How could I ever enjoy it after that? I did learn to enjoy my new bike, but it was never as good as it would have been if I hadn't said that stupid thing.
My parents were very wise people and they knew how to handle this. They told me to think about how I felt at the moment I saw that I had actually received the bike. They told me to remember that feeling so that I would never repeat that mistake and feel that way again.
For years after that, at the end of all the present giving, my father would ask me what I had to say to everyone. It had become a family joke. I would always say, "Is that all?" But what I really meant was "Thanks so much." And everyone knew that.