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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. Whenever she saw a known complainer coming, she would call me from whatever I was doing and say conspiratorially, "Sister, come inside. Come."
Of course I would obey.
My grandmother would ask the customer, "How are you doing today, Brother Thomas?" And the person would reply, "Not so good." There would be a distinct whine in the voice. "Not so good today, Sister Henderson.
You see, it's this summer. It's this summer heat. I just hate it. Oh, I hate it so much. It just frazzles me up and frazzles me down. I just hate the heat. 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 lamentation.
At another time a whiner would mewl, "I hate plowing. That packed-down dirt ain't got no reasoning, and mules ain't got good sense.... Sure ain't. It's killing me. I can't ever seem to get done. My feet and my hands stay sore, and I get dirt in my eyes and up my nose. I just can't stand it."
And my grandmother, again stoically with her arms folded, would say, "Uh-huh, uh-huh" and then look at me and nod.
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? You heard that?"
And I would nod. Mamma could 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. Sister, those who expected to rise did not, their beds became their cooling boards and their blankets became their winding sheets.
And those dead folks would give anything, anything at all for just five minutes of this weather or ten minutes of that plowing 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.
It is said that persons have a few teachable moments in their lives. Mamma seemed to have caught me at each one I had between the ages of three and thirteen.
Whining is not only graceless, but it can be dangerous.
It can alert a brute that a victim is in the neighborhood.