A Final Thought: If a frog had wings


By Mitch Allen

Some 20 years ago I sat next to a homeless woman while having breakfast at the counter of Dodie’s, a one-time popular diner in the Highland Square neighborhood of Akron. After she shared with me her compelling and tragic life story (which included being abused by various men and losing her three children to social services) I asked if there were any particular life lessons she might be willing to offer me.

She thought quite a while about her reply, which I remember word for word: 

“It don’t matter who you are—man or woman, black or white, rich or poor—ain’t nobody ever satisfied.”

I think about that dear woman a lot, including the fact that all these years later I am still disappointed in myself for not offering to pick up her tab for the single cup of coffee she had ordered, even as I watched her frail fingers gingerly picking out coins from her change purse to leave on the counter.

A better man would have bought her breakfast.

I don’t recall who writer Connie Schultz was quoting when she said, “No whining on the yacht,” but I’m guilty of that, too. Although I won the life lottery in 1962 when I was born into a middle class suburban family who insisted on giving me a good education and never letting me go hungry, I still whine. I still have regrets.

“If only (fill in the blank) would have happened.” “If only (fill in the blank) had not happened.”

As a kid, whenever I complained using “if” statements like these, my father would admonish me with, “If a frog had wings he wouldn’t bump his ass all the time.”

If you were a god and wanted to ensure the survival of a life form you were creating, there is one trait you should give it. No, not a big brain or an opposable thumb, but insatiability. That way, the species would have a never-ending longing in its heart causing it always to take more than it needs, resulting in a meteoric rise to the top of the animal kingdom. 

That’s us.

Insatiability is perhaps the defining characteristic of humanity. Birds build nests, beaver build dams and humans want. Heck, we even built our entire economic system around the idea.

Of course we humans also have the gift of self-awareness, which allows us to be conscious of our own shortcomings, creating yet more dissatisfaction. I doubt a chipmunk with his cheeks overstuffed with seed ever thought, “Wow, I wonder if I’m taking too much?” 

That kind of self-criticism and guilt is, I expect, reserved for our species, which brings me to Christmas.

Although the holidays have become an exercise in material abundance, there is still an underlying theme of love, forgiveness and fulfillment exemplified by movies like It’s a Wonderful Life and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. For me, every year, there comes a moment—usually around Christmas Eve—when I look around the room at my family and become overwhelmed with a sense of fulfillment. For that brief moment, I don’t think about work or bills or how my life should have gone. Instead, I am warmed to the core with genuine thankfulness for all that this life has given me.

And then the moment’s gone.

Merry Christmas, and God bless us, every one.


Categories: Smart Living