“I’m sorry I’ve ever complained. I’ll never complain about my leaky roof again.”
– Maya Penelope Hart, Girl Meets World
Season 2, Episode 27, “Girl Meets Money”
Maya Hart is accustomed to being the poor girl, at least, within the limits of her experience in life thus far. Her father left when she was very little, her mother is almost never there because she’s working her butt off as a waitress to provide for Maya, she has relatively little, including a leaky roof and a wall with holes in it, and the best things she gets, like home-cooked dinner, a cell phone, and art supplies, come from the family of her best friend, whose father is also her teacher. So, she’s not had the easiest life, and she is often made aware of what she doesn’t have. In this episode, however, she is reminded of what she does have, and how much more she has than many people throughout the world.
Maya’s mother, we see, isn’t able to give her the soft, luxurious life, but she’s still there, and does all sorts of things to give her everything she can, albeit sometimes in ways which are a bit unconventional. Maya has a roof over her head at all, access to decent medical care, a warm bed, three meals a day, both delicious and nourishing, an abundance of clothes, the chance to explore her skills and express herself… the list goes on. In short, she has all her needs provided for her, and many luxuries as well, and opportunities, too. That’s a lot, when you think about it.
Now, I want to make clear, that I personally think that having a complaint about our circumstances isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Cars were invented because one man refused to accept how literally shitty things were when people had to ride horses everywhere, and he did something about it. That’s the spirit of improvement, for ourselves and others, rather than a spirit of complacence, of universal acceptance of how things are. So, having a complain, and even voicing it, aren’t necessarily bad.
However, there is a surprising distance to be found between “having a complaint” and “complaining.” The one acknowledges that there is something legitimate to be improved, while the other wallows in misery and is often used as an excuse for some poor behavior, dragging everyone down. One leaves room for remembering what you have, which, it never does well to forget, while the other tends to push out any such spirit of gratitude.
Maya doesn’t have much compared to those immediately around her, but she has more than most, and suddenly wants to never complain again, if only because she knows she hasn’t been grateful. Her best friend has a good deal more, thanks to the labors of her parents, but she’s usually humble and grateful anyway. And their highly-intelligent friend, whose father is obscenely rich, feels nothing short of humiliated at having so much and having done so little for anyone else.
It is amazing how humbling it is to remember what you have, instead of what you don’t have. And humility, I would say, is essential to human compassion.
One typically isn’t very compassionate when one is complaining, after all.
It’s just too easy to get caught up in it, in one’s most selfish wants, and completely miss the good in one’s life, and the good that one can do in other people’s lives.
So, I see Maya’s desire to never complain not as some wish to simply accept whatever pains she has in life, but as an earnest expression of her own compassion.
Gratitude, humility, and compassion all go hand in hand.