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Ross Murray's Border Report
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Ross Murray
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is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at ross_murray@sympatico.ca
Posted 12.29.10
Stanstead, Quebec

ROSS MURRAY

You don't know how lucky you are

Sometimes I feel like a schmuck.

"Obviously," you say.

Thank you.

"You're welcome. Carry on."

That schmucky feeling will sometimes hit me when I'm grasping for something to write about. Maybe the refrigerator. Yes, the Frigidaire of the Damned, where mummified vegetables lie entombed in the so-called "crisper"; where 10-year-old hot sauces of varying murkiness tempt you with their aged pungency and potential toxicity; and in the deepest recesses of the bottom shelf, encased in a no-name margarine container -- Good Grills Gone Bad!

But then I think how shallow it would be to complain about all the food we throw out or to crack wise about the fact that there are at any given time a minimum of three half-finished jars of salsa in the fridge. People are struggling to feed their families, people are starving. People would be thrilled to have a jar of salsa, even the gross kind with the corn in it.

Or I could write about how I spent my lunch hour Monday on the phone with a woman in Bangalore trying to figure out why I had intermittent Internet. (What would that make it? The Internettent? The Intermitnet?) While I waited and waited on hold, I munched on leftover Halloween Smarties. And then... "That's not a Smartie. That's my tooth!"

So waiting on hold on a miserably wet day to fix my stupid Internet, I broke a tooth on Smarties -- and not even good Smarties but the kind where the candy coating has that mottled white weirdness. Could my lunch hour have been any worse?

Absolutely yes of course! How about no computer, no talking to Donita on the other side of the world, no job, no lunch, no dental insurance, no chocolate?

Comedian Louis C.K. has remarked that we live in amazing times and yet nobody's happy. We complain, for example, about our plane being 40 minutes late taking off.

"What happened after?" he says. "Did you partake in the miracle of human flight? How dare you complain that you had to pay for your sandwich? You're sitting in a chair in the sky!"

But we never learn.

Well, some of us do.

Sunday night I received a call from Maud Curtis, a senior who lives very close to the border next to the Autoroute. In the dark and the rain, the driver of a semi had turned up her street and had hit the dead end near Maud's house. She soon found the agitated driver at her door, asking to use the phone.

Before long, Maud's neighbour, Bob Alger, was also at the door, armed with a flashlight and offering to help.

"I told the driver, 'It's okay. He used to be a Customs officer; you can trust him,'" Maud told me.

For the next 45 minutes, Bob stood in the rain with his flashlight, helping the trucker inch his way back out to the main road. Because I used to be a reporter, Maud thought she'd share the story with me.

"I just think when someone does something like that, they should be recognized," she said.

I'd hazard a guess that Bob wouldn't want any particular recognition for a kind deed. He was just doing what he does. I've probably in fact embarrassed him. (Sorry, Bob.)

I'm thinking more about Maud. Her instinct was to show appreciation for kindness, even when it wasn't directed at her. Instead of complaining about the interruption to her evening, she felt joy in seeing the goodness in others.

We should all be more like Maud. Stop complaining. Be amazed.

Maybe I'm being sentimental because of the time of year, or maybe it's because on Wednesday, my daughter returned from Thailand, my dad turned 80 and my wife and I celebrated 20 years of marriage.

I'm lucky. Lucky Schmuck.

Carry on.

Ross Murray's collection, You're Not Going to Eat That, Are You?, is available in Quebec in area book stores and through www.townships.ca. He can be reached at ross_murray@sympatico.ca.

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