Gratitude vs. attitude at 6 a.m.

onoff

Photo by Misserion via Creative Commons

I think I’ve mentioned before that I am not a morning person.

Whether or not I embrace the darkness before dawn, I have no choice most days.  My Girl from the West starts school at 7 a.m. School is more than 25 miles away. We need to leave the house at 6 a.m. This means I get up at 5 a.m. in order to shower, prep things for Girl from the East to get to preschool on time, and most importantly,  to chug massive amounts of coffee.

Today we needed to stop at the corner gas station/convenience store to make up for some lunch shortcomings. As I entered the brightly lit world of piped-in pop music, polished tile, humming refrigerator cases and shelves bursting with packaged foods, I noticed the attendant on duty. He was well-groomed, middle-aged and whistling contentedly as he wiped the coffee /doughnut counter.

“You must put in some serious overnight hours, huh?” I asked, figuring the guy was lonely.

“Oh, it’s not so bad. I start at 10 and end at 6,” said the attendant as he walked briskly to the cash register. I noticed he had really nice teeth. The register sang a little electronic ditty as his fingers danced on the keypad. “I am so grateful to have a job. Very thankful.”

I grabbed my change, the plastic bag containing bottled water and Doritos, and looked up at the lean, tidy man with the dazzling smile. He was at the end of his shift and looked as if he’d just showered and shaved an hour ago. I wondered if he had a wife and children and if they missed him at night, when he wasn’t there to read bedtime stories or administer good-night kisses. Or, was a dark and empty apartment  awaiting, with only the mewing of a hungry cat to signify anyone’s absence.

It wasn’t until I slipped out of the artificial light of the shop and into the dark and chill of predawn that his words reached the processors of my brain.

“I am grateful to have a job.”

He didn’t say: “Working nights sucks” or “Those bastards at (Company X) let me go and now this is all I can get to keep Velveeta on the table” or even “I own the damned place but I can’t find find honest help so I’ve gotta be here myself.”

He was thankful. He had a paycheck. He had a purpose. He took pride in his work.

I’ve been hearing this so much lately, from people in all sorts of underwhelming jobs. Happy to be there, collecting a paycheck, doing something other than job hunt or collect unemployment. I can’t remember the last time I heard a workplace bitch-and-moan session.

Before this Great Recession that has cast my hometown in such a negative national spotlight, who would have thought anyone would embrace a gas station/convenience-store gig? Who would think maybe I felt a twinge of envy.

Not many, I’m sure.

Do I envy the job?The hours? No. But I do admire a person who radiates gratitude in the worst of circumstances, who makes being up at 6 a.m. a pleasant experience, who takes pride in his appearance and attitude even if he’s in a room all by himself.

All this I learned before 6:30 this morning.

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