When Thankfulness is Awkward

Today’s guest post, by Jenna Benton, is one that almost didn’t happen. I wanted to ask Jenna to write something for me for a while, but I never reached out to her, probably out of fear of awkwardness or rejection or something silly like that.

But then she reached out to me, and our following conversation was so encouraging and eye-opening that I knew I could not pass up an opportunity to have her words in this space. They’re just too good. When she speaks, you’ve got to listen closely because she drops widom so nonchalantly that if you’re not careful you might miss it.

Jenna Benton is a speaker and the author of “Awkward: a 30 day challenge”, a book that explores personal growth with a 30 day challenge to lean into uncomfortable situations and embrace all things awkward. If you want to know more about Jenna or buy her book, you can visit her website at jennabenton.com. Be sure to find her on Facebook as well. 

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“Can you believe it, Ellen?” I demanded, swiping handfuls of brown paper towels from the break room dispenser.

I rubbed the front of my pants and groaned dramatically.

“What?”

“I spilled a large latte. All over my pants, all over my desk. All over the cash, the receipts, the reports…everything.”

“Oh, I’m sorry”, she said, staring intently down at her oatmeal. Ellen was wearing a sparkly blue shirt with winged sleeves. Her lunch bag sat open on the counter. She stirred methodically, intently, as if savoring every swirl.

“I mean, what’s the point of a lid if it’s not going to prevent spills? It tips over and POP! All over my desk! Geez. What a day, and it’s barely 8:00 a.m. What’s next? I’m going to tag that coffee shop on Instagram so they can see how bad their lids are. Oh my gosh, I’m just so…I don’t know. This is horrible!”

“Well,” she said slowly, “At least you didn’t wake up this morning and discover you had leprosy.”

She stopped stirring and stood there, leaning against the sink, staring at me with her bright eyes and beautiful lopsided smile. Awkward silence closed in. She was watching to make sure I heard her.

Did she say leprosy? Why yes, yes she did. 

I froze. The monstrous printer whirred to life behind us. Ellen stood there grinning at me, holding her giant mug of oatmeal in mid-air, completely serious. I was breathing in sync with the fresh hot paper popping from the printer, agonizing over something good to say.

She resumed her stirring.

“So…ummm…do you have leprosy?” I asked gently.

“No,” she answered, as if I had asked her if she wanted catfood for breakfast.

“So do you know someone who woke up with leprosy one day?”

“No.” She replied. “Just sayin’.”

Just sayin’. Just sayin’. I said it over a couple of times in my head. She went back to her oatmeal, clearly satisfied she had made her point.

“Right.” I said, turning on my heels.

My coworkers expressed their condolences as I made my way down the row of cubicles to my desk. I sat down and picked up my phone.

Of course when it happened I snapped a fabulous picture with my cell. After all, a good catastrophe always needs documentation. I expertly posted it to Instagram and hash-tagged it #Tuesdayfail, and then I just sat there thinking about Ellen.

It was so…strange. It made me want to laugh (really hard), but it also made me think. Most people would have said something like, “Be thankful you have the money to buy coffee”, or “Be thankful it didn’t fry your computer”, or “Be thankful it wasn’t super hot.”

But not Ellen.

You see, I know a little something about Ellen. Before she landed this job, she lived in her car. One time she told me she tries not to get caught up in office politics because she has learned to be grateful no matter what. She said she never takes anything for granted. Her suffering gives her perspective, and she tries to remind herself often about how much she has to be grateful for. She said she thinks of all the things to be grateful for, even the weird things, and it helps her keep going.

The truth is, I have never in my life suffered so much that I’ve had to make up obscure things to be thankful for, just so I could make it through another day. I’ve never even considered being leprosy-free.

My phone buzzed. The notifications showed I already had 13 likes in the last 5 minutes, and more than one offer to drop off an emergency replacement coffee STAT. Just like that, kind and attentive friends noticed me and offered to help.

I’ve been thinking.

I want to be a better Thanker. I want to be a better Noticer. I want to be a better Reminderer. I want to be a better Offerer. (I’ll stop with the -er names for now, just for you Correctorers out there.)

I think sometimes we truly need random, awkward thankfulness in our life. We need someone to stop us in our tracks with joyful, pure-hearted, slightly strange, honest-to-goodness Thanksgiving with a capital T. It’s so easy to get tripped up by things that don’t matter. Sometimes we need an unexpected, bright-eyed, Reminderer to wake us up.

I’ve decided to call my Tuesdays #leprosytuesday. From now on, I’m going to give thanks for the weirdest, most obscure, random things I can think of. And I will give myself permission to laugh about it joyfully and with a pure heart. Because the world needs more bright-eyed Thankers.

And if you really want to be outrageous, you should join me for #leprosytuesday. I could use more people like you in my life. Share your #leprosytuesday thankfulness in the comments. Or on Instagram. Or privately or whatever. Just share. And maybe we’ll all end this day a little more grateful.

Just sayin’.

image* This is Day 27 of a 31 Day series on Keeping It Real. You can find all of the posts in this series here I hope you follow along and join the conversation! *

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