When my grandmother was raising me in Stamps, Arkansas,
she had a particular routine when people who were known to
be whiners entered her store. My grandmother would ask the
customer, "How are you doing today, Brother Thomas?"
And the person would reply, "Not so good today, Sister
Henderson. You see, it's this summer heat. I just hate it.
It just frazzles me up and frazzles me down. It's almost
killing me." Then my grandmother would stand stoically, her
arms folded, and mumble, "Uh-huh, uh-huh." And she would cut
her eyes at me to make certain that I had heard the
As soon as the complainer was out of the store, my
grandmother would call me to stand in front of her. And then
she would say the same thing she had said at least a
thousand times, it seemed to me. "Sister, did you hear what
Brother So-and-So or Sister Much-to-Do complained about?"
And I would nod. Mamma would continue, "Sister, there are
people who went to sleep all over the world last night, poor
and rich and white and black, but they will never wake
again. And those dead folks would give anything, anything at
all for just five minutes of this weather that person was
grumbling about. So you watch yourself about complaining,
Sister. What you're supposed to do when you don't like a
thing is change it. If you can't change it, change the way
you think about it. Don't complain."
It is said that persons have few teachable moments in
their lives. Mamma seemed to have caught me at each one I
had. Whining is not only graceless, but can be dangerous. It
can alert a brute that a victim is in the neighborhood.