We often cannot choose our circumstances, but we can always choose our attitude. I was reminded of this maxim recently as I sat down to eat at The Coffee Shop, a small breakfast and lunch restaurant in Marathon, (pronounced Mer-thon) Texas, population 450.
The place looked like something out of a 1950 movie set: an old corner building with a few tables outside and a few more inside. A couple of local men in cowboy hats mingling inside and a few visitors to the area having their breakfast outside. As it turns out a lot of people come from all over the world to visit Marathon, a town in the middle of nowhere in west Texas. The vastness and the “lost-in-time” feel of the area attract people who want to experience the grandeur of the American West.
Francine waited on me and had a notebook filled with names of people and the places they were from. She was well into her 70’s. But her attitude was contagiously fun. “I work for Nancy. She owns the place,” she said. “She’s also my cousin.”
A few minutes later, I met Nancy. She was a spry, diminutive woman with a big smile. By all accounts she should long be retired and spending her days playing bridge. But she owned the only coffee shop in town. And along with her two cousins, both well past retirement themselves, she’s been running the place for the past 3 years.
After I asked her a few questions about the business, she pulled up a chair and told me her story and the circumstances that had landed her as a business owner late in life. Nancy lost her husband to cancer 8 years ago. “I had to do something with my life and I needed to work,” she said without one bit of resentment or regret. “After the man I used to work for closed his restaurant down the street, I decided to open mine.” She smiled big and the lines on her face told the story of a long, hard life while her words were positive and filled with hope.
I was instantly drawn to Nancy and her unflappable optimism. “People ask me why I’m always positive after all that has happened to me. Well, who wants to hear me complain anyway?” she says through the smile that hasn’t left her face since we began the conversation. Francine overhears her and chimes in, “when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade!” And then they both disappeared behind the small restaurant door.
I took a bit of inventory and thought of the times I have felt like life treated me unfairly, of the times I’d felt robbed of what I deserved, or of all the times I had felt sorry for myself because things didn’t turned out the way I wanted them to.
I’m keeping Nancy’s picture nearby as a reminder that while I cannot control my circumstances, I can control my attitude. Life is going to give me lemons. I’m committed to make lemonade and even a lemon pie if necessary. I just don’t want to sit around and complain. After all, I agree with her: who wants to hear my complaints, anyway?
Who has inspired you with their attitude? How has it impacted you?