“Fishing” for a Compliment

Dear Reader:

Grandmother Wilson gave me a great lesson in gratitude one summer…when I was at her house… and it had to do with cornbread.

To this day I can still taste grandmother’s cornbread in my mind…it was the best thing I ever put in my mouth then…or the memory of it now. She would butter it  for me and let me pour cane syrup over it….“My my my!” Some good eating. It was my favorite “dessert.”

Grandmother used an old black mountain rectangular skillet to cook the cornbread in….and the smell was something I have never forgotten. Security at its best. All was right with the world when that scent waffled through the kitchen.

I would wait patiently while it was cooking so I could be the first bidder for a ‘corner’ piece. I loved the extra crust on those… But one day I came in after helping pick string beans and was hot and tired and obviously in a foul mood.

To my delight there stood a big pan of recently cooked cornbread. I ran over to it…and immediately looked at the four corners…they were all missing a piece of cornbread. Stricken…I yelled at grandmother as she came in the kitchen…“Where are my corner pieces?” I exclaimed indignantly.

Grandmother sat down, wearily, in a kitchen chair and calmly told me that Johnny, who sharecropped the land with my uncle, had come in to tell her his wife was not doing well. Grandmother knew he and his wife loved the corner pieces too…so she had cut them to send home with him.

She went to cut me another piece…and I pouted and told her I didn’t want that piece. Grandmother stared right through me and then told me that was fine…there would just be more for the rest of the hands at lunch.

I stomped out…slamming the screen door behind me. I felt so “put upon”...after all… grandmother knew that was my favorite piece…she could have given Johnny another part and that would have been fine.

My indignation didn’t last long…my stomach was growling and by now I wanted any piece of the cornbread with the butter and cane syrup on it.

I slinked back in the kitchen, sat down at the table, and stared at the cornbread. I knew I was in the dog house from the way grandmother avoided looking at me.

Finally she plopped down in another kitchen chair and stared at me waiting.

“Can I have any piece of the cornbread, grandmother…it doesn’t matter which one.”  My voice sounded subdued…even to me. “I’ll be grateful for any cornbread.”

She stared at me and said, “Remember this simple truth…Becky Lynn…you can not be grateful and ungrateful at the same time. You have to pick one…and if you want to live a happy life, if I were you…Id’ choose grateful.”

I feel sure that I immediately responded to grandmother (something like) “I would be very grateful for a piece of cornbread…any piece. Thank you.”

Ingrates really do live miserable lives don’t they…unfortunately…making other around them as miserable as they are.

Ingrates live in narrow spaces…they don’t venture out much farther than their nose. They are always the victim when things goes wrong, someone else is always the blame….they never see themselves as their own perpetrator in the ill-fated conclusion to a series of poor personal choices. If they weren’t so darn irritating…they would be downright pathetic.

A few years ago…I heard this funny anecdote and immediately remembered that once forgotten scene between me and grandmother…grandmother would have loved this ‘tall tale’ about gratitude and/or ingratitude.

There were two old acquaintances who went fishing every month together. One fisherman was filled with gratitude throughout each fishing adventure while the other complained continuously about the weather, the waves, the sun (or lack of) the temperature….the sandwiches….you name it he was never grateful for simply sharing one of moment’s pleasures with an old colleague.

On this particular trip…they were both in the fishing boat but also duck hunting. The fisherman, who was grateful for everything in his life, saw a duck soar overhead, he pulled out his rifle and shot it in mid-air. Screaming with delight he kept asking his gloomy friend if he had just witnessed that spectacular shot… but with no response.

The happy fisherman told his dog to retrieve the duck and bring it back to the boat. The dog obediently stepped out on the water and ran across it, grabbed the duck, ran back across the water and dumped it in the bottom of the boat. There was dead silence until awed pandemonium broke out….“It was a miracle…did you just see that…did you see what MY dog did?”

“See what?” the grumbling, ungrateful fisherman said rudely, “Just our luck…your stupid dog can’t even swim!”


So until tomorrow….Jefferson was right…some “truths are self-evident” and one of these is learning to live life with gratitude…and thankfulness.

“Today is my favorite day”  Winnie the Pooh




I am always so proud of Clemson and its “all in” approach they have for breast cancer awareness. Yesterday all the players wore pink in all different ways…legs, arms, socks, gloves,and head scarves.

Dabo Swinney’s (All In) breast cancer foundation is one of the most successful fund-raisers around. It makes me even a prouder fan.

The garden’s contribution to Breast Cancer Month.


About Becky Dingle

I was born a Tarheel but ended up a Sandlapper. My grandparents were cotton farmers in Laurens, South Carolina and it was in my grandmother’s house that my love of storytelling began beside an old Franklin stove. When I graduated from Laurens High School, I attended Erskine College (Due West of what?) and would later get my Masters Degree in Education/Social Studies from Charleston Southern. I am presently an adjunct professor/clinical supervisor at CSU and have also taught at the College of Charleston. For 28 years I taught Social Studies through storytelling. My philosophy matched Rudyard Kipling’s quote: “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” Today I still spread this message through workshops and presentations throughout the state. The secret of success in teaching social studies is always in the story. I want to keep learning and being surprised by life…it is the greatest teacher. Like Kermit said, “When you’re green you grow, when you’re ripe you rot.”
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