Why do we not appreciate the good things we have? Is this an American or a human trait? I am not a trained psychologist nor do I possess an advanced degree. I do, however, have over four decades of life experience in American culture. As such, I consider myself an unofficial expert in Loco-Estados-Unidos-ology, the study of weird, crazy things Americans do and say. Such expertise could not be acquired without bearing witness to a plethora (which roughly equates to ten buttloads) of head-scratch moments. Which leads me to today’s Grey Matters story.
Before I continue one must understand a reality from the world of video/film production. Shoot days can be long and grueling. So much so that food and drink become like currency to production crews. There are countless tales of indie films being financed by three squares and a fully stocked cooler. Okay, on with the story.
Not long after 2004 became 2005 I was on a shoot in Jacksonville the week before Super Bowl XXXIX documenting the wild shenanigans of NFL mascots. It was historically cold—rainy too. Our shoot day began at 7am—a day filled with one crazy antics-filled event after another. (The details of the mascot story are worthy of their own article…stay tuned.) As lunch became dinner, and we’d partaken in neither, it became obvious that we would go an entire day without eating—a day that wouldn’t end until close to midnight. Our final location was at a corporate function, outdoors in the cold, under a massive tent where live music and the visibly cold Jacksonville Jaguar dancers did their best to entertain. Of greater interest to us was the large BBQ buffet complete with all the fixings standing before us like a grazing wildebeest in front of starving lions on the African tundra. However, we had a job to do and as our cameras rolled we all accepted our fate. We would go hungry.
Or would we? You see on this night fate would extend a kind hand. Our client, having an apparent epiphany, recognized our Betty White Snickers expressions and herded us toward the buffet line. We enthusiastically obliged, filling our plates with all that was offered. I don’t recall everything but if it was resting over chafing fuel we scooped it. Back at our table we all sat exhausted and cold but appreciative of our improved fortunes. Or so I thought. A few bites into the meal a voice from one of our crew sounded out in astounding fashion. “God, this corn salad sucks!” he blurted with disgust. Five minutes earlier we were trembling from hunger, a fact he obviously didn’t appreciate.
Sadly, in today’s American culture there are far too many “corn salad” moments. One could argue that we have access to more conveniences than at any other time in our history yet we are more unappreciative than ever before. One cursory dive into the cesspool of social media will reveal how truly unappreciative we have become. Very few of us take the time to be thankful for the extraordinary way of life we have in America and that baffles me.
In my ideal America every such complainer would be forced to spend time in another country, could be Mexico, (but not at a resort) and see how the people live. They’d stay with the locals, witness their daily lives, observe their extraordinary work ethic, their commitment to the family unit, and their faith in God. Then maybe, just maybe, they’d learn to appreciate life. Because in my ideal world we’d have a society where people appreciate what they have. In my ideal world we’d have a lot of cool things, and I guarantee the corn salad wouldn’t suck.
Grant Kauffman is the founder of 12 Rounds Media, LLC