Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Envy is ignorance.” And of course, he’s right.
We all envy, or tend to covet, that which we are unaware and don’t know a whole heck of a lot about.
For me, I’ll admit, it can be a daily occurrence.
I smile outwardly at the guy who hops out of his car in the Publix parking lot, his hands gripping the torn piece of notebook paper like it was a winning lottery ticket on a windy day. I nod my head as he looks up in intense concentration from trying to memorize his wife’s grocery list, grabs his cart and heads inside.
I think how lucky his wife must be. How my own husband hasn’t set foot inside a grocery store in ten years, except on the 17th of October, 2010, for a gallon of fat free milk and a loaf of Wonder Bread. I remember the exact day five years later because of the texts, photos and subsequent Facebook posting from friends and family documenting his epic maiden voyage. I also remember because we ate our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for a week on rye bread downed with a hearty glass of buttermilk.
I sigh in frustration as my husband . . . again . . . leaves his plate exactly three inches from the two contraptions that were built to clean them. You know, the dishwasher and the kitchen sink. Not to mention, his half glass of milk is left sweating on the island, his balled up napkin is on the floor and he’s now having fun swimming with the girls while I mop, bleach, bake, sterilize, sanitize and sweep.
I feel envious, I do, of all those women out there whose significant other lends a helping hand with the day-to-day doldrums. I know they are out there. I’ve seen them with me own eyes. The ones who help clean up after birthday parties, plan cookouts and dish out food they’ve cooked all day with a smile on their faces.
I feel jealous and bad too, most days, about just being a mom. Surely, there are women out there that can get their kids to school on time, handle deadlines and PTA meetings and remember to bring two dozen water bottles and three bags of pretzels for snack at school. I know these moms have never been yelled at by their own kids, never told they’ve “ruined their lives,” or heard a request for adoption with a family of traveling trapeze artists because at least, “their lives turn out to be somewhat interesting and a whole lot more fun.” Yes, I want to be one of these women who can do it all and never feel like a failure.
But then I think:
The man at the grocery store’s wife is terribly sick. He has no idea how to help her get better or if she ever will get better. All he knows is this is what he can do right now. In this moment. He can make her something she probably won’t be able to keep down but it’s the only thing he can think to do. To show her how much he cares about her, to reassure her, to hang on.
While my husband ignores his plate by the sink and plays soccer with our daughters, there is a single mom down the street. She’s worked all day, already cried silently in her car before pick-up, wondering how she is going to do this all by herself. She washes dishes as her kids play without her in the backyard, already stressing on unanswered work e-mails, backed up laundry and mounting bills. She knows it’s almost time to call them in for bed, another day gone–just like that.
And as I go to bed, feeling defeated, feeling like a failure as a mom, there is a women not too far from me who turns in for the night wishing her child was still with her. Even if it were just to tell her she was “ruining his life,” because at least she could hold him and hug him – breathe in the smell of him – and tell him she didn’t care about any of that, never did. She only loved him with all and every molecule of her being.
Yes, envy is ignorance just as the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.
But as Walt Whitman believed, “a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars.”
It takes just one, single blade of grass – not an acre, forest, slab or crate – to see the magic that is humanity.
We shouldn’t keep count of how much or how little we have.
We should only reflect and be grateful for each other’s blessings.