Could Be Worse

could be worse When I was a kid, my mom read to us, a lot.

There are books that I read out loud now, or not out loud, and I still hear her voice in my head. I gained a wealth of inspiration, traveled to different worlds and lands and, occasionally, learned a timeless truth.

They tell you that the reading you do as a child is more important than the reading you do during the whole rest of your life. As a reader, I have struggled with this concept. I still feel like I'm getting a lot out of reading. But I guess it's like anything else, when you're a kid, reading is new, story is new. You are not jaded, you are not sophisticated. I have worked hard to avoid being jaded, but I haven't completely escaped. I am not a kid anymore. I know too much. It's not that reading as a kid is better, it's that you are more open to it. At least, this is my theory.

There is truth, I think, to the idea that reading that you do as a child shapes your identity. The ideas that you put in are the ones you take with you as you move forward.  I realized this yesterday as I was thinking about my sinus headache. I was complaining a little to myself, because, let's be honest, who likes a sinus headache? I was at work, and I couldn't get it to go away. After having had a really horrible no good very bad cold this winter, this one feels like a cakewalk.

But as I complained to myself, I immediately thought: could be worse.

I thought about the cold from a few months ago, and how I couldn't go to work or get out of bed or do much other than moan and drink tea. I thought about a friend of mine who currently has a broken foot and has to get around by special scooter. I thought about another friend battling cancer.

Could be worse.

For those of you unfamiliar, Could Be Worse is a 1977 picture book by James Stevenson and it was one of the favorites at our house. This morning, I went and found it in the basement. It is an old library book, from San Diego, probably bought in a book sale for 25 cents. We read that book so often.

library record

It's a book about perspective, about stopping for a moment in the midst of your own drama and remembering that things are rarely as bad as they can be. This is wonderful, and it has stuck with me all my life.

On the way home from work yesterday, I was listening to some of the works of Dr. Seuss on audio. They are read by famous people and are really rather fantastic. I happened to come across Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are? as read by Stephen Fry (amazing!). Ironically, I have already blogged about this book this year, it just goes to show you, doesn't it? It's another book with the same concept: things are bad, but just think how much worse it could be. I cannot tell you how often I think about both of these books when I'm tempted to feel sorry for myself.

Obviously, I fit all this into the framework of my faith now. As an adult I think: consider it all joy, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. I think: I am so blessed. God is good, even though I don't feel that right now.

But at the very moment, when I am closest to complaint I often think simply: could be worse.