David Altshuler, M.S.
(305) 978-8917 | [email protected]

What Have you Done for Me Next?

“You were working as a waitress in a cocktail bar,

When I met you.

I picked you out, I shook you up, and turned you around; turned you into someone new.

Now five years later on you’ve got the world at your feet, Success has been so easy for you.

But don’t forget it’s me who put you where you are now, and I can put you back down too.”

Needless to say, by the end of the song, it is clear that she has dumped him.

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Twenty seven years and three grown children into their marriage, Mr. Thompson develops aplastic anemia which only an allogenic bone marrow transplant can cure. Miraculously, his wife is a match. She donates and Mr. Thompson has a rapid, remarkable, and relatively painless recovery.

On the day that the doctor tells the Thompsons that Mr. Thompson doesn’t even need to make a subsequent appointment–that he is as healthy as the proverbial ox, that his cancer is in complete and total remission–Mr. Thompson files for divorce.

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Simon works full time at the post office, a soul denying job he detests. He is a good father to his three children and a devoted husband to his wife. Simon’s mother-in-law comes to live with him. As her dementia increases, she becomes an increasing burden both emotional and economic, but Simon never complains. His days off are filled with doctor visits and care for his mother-in-law. In the fullness of time, Simon’s mother in law, passes away–three years after she moved in.

Simon’s wife never thanks him for his sacrifice.

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In one of my favorite Mark Twain short stories, three men are trapped in a blizzard with no hope of surviving the night. Believing themselves to be miles from shelter, devoid of food, fuel, or provisions, they huddle around their dwindling campfire in the blinding cold and talk about what they would have done differently and how they would mend their ways in the future. Each agreed he would have been a better, husband and father, would have gone to church more, donated time and money to the poor. All agree that were they to be delivered that they would never drink again. For emphasis, one man hurls his pipe into the darkness, vowing that were he to be delivered from the raging storm, he would never stoop to the vice of smoking tobacco again.

Contrary to the laws of nature, the snow stops. The morning sun reveals that the happy band of travelers is stranded not in a remote and desolate spot but half a mile from a village.

The man walks over, picks up his pipe, and heads on into town.

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You and your new business associate go out to lunch. When the check comes, you reach for it and exclaim, “I’ll get this one.” Some people understand that the precedent is that you will take turns paying for meals. On the other hand, some people perceive that they never have to get a check.

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Where does all the gratitude go? How does a man who has just accepted a bone marrow transplant leave his wife? How does a woman whose husband has taken his mother-in-law into his home not feel thankful? How does a man who has been saved from certain frozen death not keep his promise? How can a man for whom you have picked up a lunch check not take his turn?

The parents with whom I work frequently have “picked up all the checks” for their children. By doing so, they deny their children the opportunity to give back, to feel good about themselves, to make a contribution to the family. Children should be ALLOWED to do their own laundry, to weed the garden, to walk the dog, to set the table, to clean the pool. Nobody but a prostitute wants to be paid for all the time.

A child who is given a hundred dollars on the first Friday of the month will be less happy than a child who earns ten dollars the first Friday, twenty dollars the second, thirty dollars the third and fouty dollars the fourth Friday. Both children have a hundred dollars in total. But earning is better than getting, and four payouts is better than one. The first child will be happy only briefly.

How do we allow our adolescent children to be happy and content? How do we allow them to move in the direction of being self-actualized?

As always, I welcome your comments. Stories of ingratitude are especially welcome.



Copyright © David Altshuler 1980 – 2022    |    Miami, FL • Charlotte, NC     |    (305) 978-8917    |    [email protected]