This grandmother has the most beautiful grandson. He is her first, and he is her joy and delight. The boy is also much loved and protected by his mom and dad. Now this grandmother goes to Florida every winter for three months, and she constantly shows everyone she knows pictures of her amazing grandson and tells stories of how smart and sweet and funny he is. Over the years, other grandparents have their grandchildren come to visit them in Florida, and this grandmother wants to have her wonderful grandson come too so she can show him off. But the parents say no, it’s too far and they would miss him too much. But the grandmother begs and pleads and promises she will guard him with her life, so finally the parents agree.
Now the grandmother brings the boy down to Florida and shows him off to all of her friends, and they all agree that he is a wonderful little boy. As she promised his parents, she never lets him out of her sight and guards him with her life. But one day the two of them are on the beach. The boy is building a sand castle and she is sitting a few feet away watching him, when all of a sudden a big wave comes along and swoops the child up from the sand and out to sea.
The grandmother is horrified and heartbroken, and she starts running back and forth on the sand crying and praying, “Lord, bring back my grandson, he’s only a child and he means everything to me and to my son. I will do anything you want, give anything you want, and never ask you for anything ever again if you’ll just return him to me safe and sound.”
Well, as she cries out, another wave swoops up on the shore and deposits the boy at her feet, a little wet but otherwise just fine. His grandmother looks up into the sky and says, “He had a hat…”
It almost seems like a crime not to stop here. I love this story. But there is more. My family has developed its own shorthand over the years, some based on family events, and others from stories and jokes. “He had a hat” is our shorthand for those people you can never satisfy. If you bring them dinner, they wish for dessert. If you take them to the doctor they want to make two or three stops on the way home, then ask you to carry everything in for them.
All of us have our hat moments. But for some people it’s a specialty. Here’s the trick. Of course you want to save the child, but when people start asking you to rescue the hat it’s OK to say no. How far does your generosity go? Are you constantly finding hats for others at the expense of your own dreams and goals?
I know. It’s a silly joke. One of my favorites, to be sure, but still… a joke. Until it’s not.