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The Lawyer Who Opened the Gratitude Box

by Jay Reeves |

Quick: name one good thing that’s happened to you today.

Maybe more than one springs quickly to mind. You can name a handful of happy occurrences. If so, here’s Summary Judgment in your favor.

But if you’re struggling to come up with a single reason to be grateful, if you’re drawing a mental blank trying to picture one positive scene from home or work, if your day has been truly, deeply, irreparably thankless … well, then, I have a bit of advice.

You could seek relief by way of a Gratitude Box – just don’t expect it to work if you’ve got any serious filing to do. Let me explain.

Be Thankful for What You’ve Got

A long time ago, in the days before the Marvel Universe, my son Bo had begun school and revealed himself to be gifted with words. By gifted I mean he talked all the time and constantly asked what every word meant, including words he had no business knowing about.

“What’s Viagra?” he said one night watching television.

“It’s nothing,” I said, too exhausted after a long workday to think of a better response.

“Why is it nothing?”

“I have no idea,” I said, making strategic use of what had become my fallback line at home and the office.

Not long after that, Bo developed a second fascination, this one having to do with money – specifically, wanting me to give him lots of it. It seems his friend Will received an allowance, which apparently netted gobs of cash that Will would brag about at school. Bo wanted gobs of cash to brag about too.

Something in me rebelled at the notion of paying my son simply for residing in my home and peppering me with uncomfortable questions. Then I learned about the Gratitude Box.

Gratitude in a Box

It sounded like the foolproof solution. The only ingredients needed were a list of household chores, a small box, and a bunch of “gratitude tokens” made from colored cardboard that could be redeemed for cash. A completed chore would earn a designated number of tokens – the idea being that gratitude, not greed, was the more enlightened reward for family service.

Things went well at first. Bo swept the porch and earned some tokens. He washed the dishes and earned some more. Then I came up with a mega-chore – one I’d been putting off for years and would be perfect for a young human who liked both language and music. I asked Bo to alphabetize my extensive collection of vinyl records.

“Yay,” he said, when he learned he’d earn enough to buy a ticket to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Movie.

And so the next day while I was at work, Bo went to work too. Boy did he. I arrived home that evening expecting organizational bliss, but instead finding chaos.

Elvis Has Left the Building

The Beatles were filed under “T.” Except Abbey Road, which was under “A.” Smokey Robinson and the Miracles were scattered in “S,” “R,” and “M.” Elvis was everywhere.

My first thought was to declare these particular gratitude tokens null and void and tell Bo to start over. But then I realized I was the one who’d made a mistake, not him. I assigned him a difficult task for which he had no experience and got inadequate instructions. I offered zero supervision, expecting him to intuitively know that Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band did not belong under “E.”

I ended up paying him in full for the chore. Plus a bonus for helping erase a longstanding item from my to-do list. That weekend I drove him and Will and some other friends to Timberlyne Cinema for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Movie.

I can’t remember what happened to the Gratitude Box. But to this day, I can vividly recall how grateful I was to play chauffeur for my terrific young son and his delightful friends.

Thinking about the Gratitude Box – and reliving that special season of my life – was a good thing that happened to me today. Writing this story was another. My heart is full. Now if only I can figure out where U2 is filed.

Jay Reeves practiced law in South Carolina and North Carolina. His record collection ranges from ABBA to ZZ Top. Want to write – or rewrite – a success story for your law practice? Or maybe you need a speaker for your next bar meeting, firm retreat or CLE? Contact jay@yourlawlife.com or 919-619-2441.

About the Author

Jay Reeves

Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. He was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He is the author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World, a collection of short stories from a law life well-lived, which as the seasons pass becomes less about law and liability and more about loss, love, longing, laughter and life's lasting luminescence.

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