Appreciation a better tool than litigation

We focus a lot on the negatives in life.

I’m not judging. I certainly do it myself far more than I should. Instead of taking a deep breath and appreciating all the good that envelops my life, I often focus on the bad, or the things I want to be in my life, but in fact, are not.

Call it the “grass-is-always-greener” syndrome, or take a more optimistic approach and chalk it up to an American psyche that pushes all to strive for more in our lives. Either way, most of us get more wrapped up in the half-empty glass instead of being thankful for the half-full one in front of us.

I’ve recently reached the conclusion that “appreciation” is something we just don’t, well, appreciate enough. Do we appreciate when we go out to a restaurant and have a nice meal that we didn’t have to prepare or clean up when we are done, or do we dwell on the fact that the food came a little more slowly than we wanted, or the overworked server didn’t smile the seventh time he or she came by to fill up a drink for free? Do we appreciate that we have a toe-curling sunset nearly every single night in our area, or do we get ourselves so worked up over the minutiae in our lives that we never take the time to watch that glowing ball of warmth and light disappear over a water-filled horizon?

It’s tired and cliché, but the older I get, the more I realize that it is indeed the little things in our day-to-day lives that warrant the most attention. Yeah, life can get hectic and weird and stressful and agonizing at times. But, you know what? Stopping and smelling the proverbial roses is a pretty good antidote for most of us. There’s more to appreciate than we know.

For instance, there are many people in the world, and our community, who do not have enough to eat. Yet I take for granted that I can go home at lunch from my paying job and eat a sandwich with my daughter and wife. I’m guessing many of you also have these day-to-day blessings in life that you just don’t consider nearly enough.

One of the greatest pleasures I’ve ever had in my life are my two nephews in Colorado, Gary and Patrick. For one thing, they are the spawn of my sister, and she’s pretty important and special to me. For another, the boys have always been big-hearted goofballs who can make me laugh, and that’s the way to my heart.

I can’t even explain the joy I would feel, and still do, when the boys see me and come up and give me a hug. Of course, they’re getting a little older now and a little too cool to jump for joy and into my arms, but I still get my hugs, and I still get to enjoy their energy and enthusiasm when I’m fortunate enough to be around them. Don’t get me wrong. They have completely wiped me out during more than one holiday get-together, and have made me silently cry for my mommy after a few tough tackles in our football games, but that’s part of it, right?


The Connecticut Post shared a story earlier this week of a New York woman who went to her then-8-year-old nephew’s birthday party in Connecticut four years ago. Upon seeing his aunt, the excited little boy did what excited little boys do — he jumped into her arms.

“All of a sudden he was there in the air, I had to catch him, and we tumbled onto the ground,” said Jennifer Connell, the aunt in question. “I remember him shouting, ‘Auntie Jen, I love you,’ and there he was flying at me.”

Connell ended up breaking her wrist from the subsequent fall to the ground, but said that she didn’t complain at the time, because, “... I didn’t want to upset him.”

Well, fast-forward four years. Connell filed a lawsuit against the boy, arguing that her life has essentially been ruined by his affections. She cited as examples that Manhattan is very crowded and it’s hard for her to maneuver through said crowds with her injured wrist, and that she now has difficulty holding a plate of hors d’oeuvres when she’s at parties.

Want to hear something even better? Connell was suing for $127,000 in damages from her nephew, who was the only defendant named. Oh, and his mother died last year.

Fortunately, the jury ruled against Connell’s claims of negligence by her enthusiastic 8-year-old nephew, and she lost her case earlier this week. One juror, who did not wish to be identified in the Post article, said, “We just didn’t think the boy was negligent.”

No, he wasn’t. He was a boy. He was an 8-year-old boy who’s biggest crime was that he got excited to see this aunt of his.

What makes someone file a lawsuit like this? The article said she is employed as a human resources manager, so she wasn’t as desperate to put food on the table as some would be around the world. Family discord? Or, and this is my working opinion, is she just a greedy, self-absorbed individualist who decided to put her energy into litigating against her nephew, as opposed to, I don’t know, giving support to a little boy who obviously loved her very much and is dealing with the loss of his mother?

Connell is now facing the ire of people around the world, judging by comments I read on several websites. She is the public face of an overly-litigious society that is all around us, and she’s just going to have to find a way to hold her hors d’oeuvres at cocktail parties.

Maybe if she spent a little more time appreciating her nephew he could hold them for her.