By Phyllis T. Halle February 26, 2006
Growing up in a tiny coal mining town in the hills of Eastern Kentucky,
I frequently heard a response out of the lips of stooped, arthritic miners, toothless women, old before their time,
wretchedly poor widows with six children to feed.
It was just a common reply to the courteous, "How are you?" -
The high pitched voices of those descendents of English, Scottish, German, Irish pioneers still echo in my ears and I wonder always at the tenacity, strength and wisdom which resounded firmly in those two words,
Very few people had indoor plumbing, telephones, cars or two pair of shoes. Health insurance, retirement plans, paid sick days, furnaces, pizzas, air conditioners, jet planes, paid vacations, job security, career planning were all unheard of unknowns.
When someone became ill, the ‘‘kindly old general practitioner would come to the house and dispense his little pills and words of encouragement and instruction, knowing the limitations of his skill and ability to heal.
Mothers and fathers still buried their little children who died from diphtheria, pneumonia, whooping cough, measles, diarrhea, croup ( a disorder known in later years as asthma).
Husbands buried wives who died in childbirth, at an alarming rate. "Caint Complain," they'd say gently, with a soft 'almost' smile and deeply troubled eyes.
Sanitation was fought for, vigorously, by hard muscled women, who scrubbed and washed, and swept and mopped.
They'd boiled the family’s clothes which had been worn for a week, in pots in the back yard, "to get ‘em clean."
Killing germs was not in their vocabulary, but that is what they'd were doing. Ask that little old gal who was out in the yard, stirring the clothes around in boiling water, over an open fire, "How are you doin’?"
"Caint Complain, " she would invariably say.
WHY couldn't they'd complain? Where did their tenacity come from?
Where did that philosophy of not complaining come from?
Where did they find the resolve to place dire, critical deprivation, hard labor and malnourishment behind them and place a smile on their faces and say
I knew some of those people when they had grown very old and faced birthdays in their late nineties. Without exception, they had the sweetest dispositions, most grateful hearts, kindest words and calmest old ages of any among the many I have known who reached that age!
When the pressures of their life had faded and they had nothing remaining that had to be done except to live out the final part of their life, they did not have a habit of complaint.
Some recent phone calls I have received were what prompted me to think about this. One right after another, friends called and for the first ten minutes of each call, I listened to a long list of complaints about the trials and travails my dear friend was suffering.
Each friend has: no financial worries, a wonderful primary care doctor, prescriptions to keep their heart pumping, eyes seeing, brain focusing, stomach digesting and body sleeping, each night.
They are protected from financial ruin, by medicare and/or HMO, social security checks, pensions, savings and inherited wealth. They have loving, devoted sons, daughters, nieces and nephews who keep in touch and are there for them.
They each one have lovely heated and cooled homes, apartments or condos with every convenience known to Americans; cars or taxi/bus services to get them out and around. More than that, each has beautiful memories which they can call upon to bring a smile to their face at any moment of the day or night. But somehow we find plenty to complain about.
Why haven't we formed the habit of Caint Complain?
Maybe the philosophy of always seeking more comfort, more possessions, more money, more- more- more- of everything, has driven us to achieve, accumulate and accomplish but it required us to never know what the word contentment means.
Contentment doesn't mean having everything at one’s fingertips. It doesn't mean lacking nothing. It certainly doesn't mean every dream and desire fulfilled.
Yet there are many who have enough of everything except the common sense to know when they really "Caint Complain."
Happiness is a fleeting moment of joy. Contentment is finding peace in what you have, what you are and what you have accomplished.
Having the serenity to know which one brings lasting goodness into your life is wisdom.
A SMILE IS THE KNIFE GOD GAVE US TO CUT THE SIZE OF OUR TROUBLES DOWN TO A BEARABLE LOAD.
Lots of love and hugs, Phyllis