The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

November 27, 2013

‘What do you say?’ Attitude of gratitude

By Jeff Mullin, columnist
Enid News and Eagle

— “What do you say?”

If I heard that question once as a kid, I heard it a thousand times.

It happened anytime anyone gave me something, whether it was something I wanted or not.

“What do you say?”

When somebody gave me clothes for my birthday or Christmas, instead of a toy, I wanted to say something all right, but it wasn’t what my parents wanted me to say. Since I was a spoiled rotten little cuss, I wanted to say something like, “What were you thinking, giving me clothes? Do you hate me or something?”

But I didn’t. My survival instincts were far too strong for me to say anything else but what my parents wanted.

“What do you say?”

The question was asked sweetly, but with underlying menace. It was usually accompanied by a slight tilt of my mother’s head, and just the hint of a glare from her ever so slightly narrowed eyes.

Those eyes, that tone, spoke volumes. “If you embarrass me, so help me even your grandchildren won’t be able to sit without pain,” they said.

What could I say? I said what she wanted me to. But I didn’t have to mean it. She couldn’t make me mean it.

I said it solely out of rote. I said it so many times when I didn’t mean it, it lost all of its meaning.

“What do you say?”

It was the right thing to say, of course, but I found myself saying it for the wrong reason — to avoid a tongue-lashing, a firm hand against my bony backside, or worse.

“What do you say?”

When I hear parents ask their children that same question today, I am immediately transported back decades. Suddenly I am that petulant child again, saying the words merely to please the hovering parents.

Most children see themselves the way adherents to the Ptolemaic system of astronomy used to view the earth, as the center of the universe. A little seasoning quickly dispels that notion, of course. Suddenly the world is no longer patting you on the head, but kicking you in the teeth.

At some point life gets tough. You start out convinced the world is your oyster, but suddenly you are left with just an empty shell.

You planned to be Batman, but wound up feeling more like the Joker. You wanted to be on top of the world, but ended up convinced those positions have somehow been reversed. Your grandiose dreams suddenly turn into nightmares.

Sometimes everything just gets to you. The job is impossible, the kids are insufferable and your spouse is irritating. Some days it just doesn’t pay to get out of bed.

But then it hits you. At least you have a bed. After all, so many people don’t. And yeah, your boss can be a bit demanding at times, but at least you have a job.

You could stand to lose a few pounds, but at least you have enough to eat. And while your kids and wife can drive you crazy sometimes, they are the loves of your life and you are darn lucky to have them.

You may not have achieved all of your dreams, you won’t ever fly to the moon, make the cover of Time, win a Nobel Prize or bring home a Cy Young Award, but you have made a pretty good life for yourself nonetheless.

There have been many challenges, but there have been an equal or greater number of blessings, as well.

People like you, love you, respect you and have come to depend on you.

So, what do you say?

Thank you.

There you go, now was that so hard?

Happy Thanksgiving.

Mullin is senior writer of the News & Eagle. Email him at