I've always considered myself lucky in that I'm easily satisfied. I tend to take things as they come and never question whether I could have had better.

This is not to say I don't admire the men and women who've strived for progress in science, the arts, liberty. I just don't see any use in getting worked up over the little things. If my food is running late at the restaurant, I don't bark at the waitress. I don't make excuses for the teams I root for. I don't resent those who do well financially, as long as they do no harm for it or with it.

I guess I get that from my folks. They taught us to always appreciate what we were getting. The underlying implication is, of course, you may not get it forever. Things can always get worse.

This is the thought that has gotten my Pop out of bed for 40-odd years at 6 in the morning to go pull 10- and 12-hour days at a job he doesn't particularly like. He's turned wrenches five and six days a week for as long as I can remember. And then come home and do side jobs on friends' cars.

Mom has supplemented his income by being everything from a store clerk to a security guard. She's now doing her time as an agent at a high-risk loan office.

They don't hate their jobs, at least not outwardly. Sure Mom might complain about a coworker, but never the work. And my father just grins along.

His contentment in the face of such adversity, monotony, isn't out of stupidity. He knows more about astronomy, computers and photography than any other layperson I know. He even baffles an expert occassionally with his unique observations.

But that is play. Work is work, and it doesn't have to be fun, or stimulating, or challenging, as long as it pays the bills and puts food... you know the rest. Never complaining, unless his check was short.

I'm not my father, though. My work is dynamic, ever changing. I have fun with it, as my father wished I would. Still, I wake up some Mondays with a feeling of uselessness to the world that leaves me faint of breath, beaten.

But then as I lie there, I think of Dad toiling away already, a quiet ironman, an unnannounced Ripken. And I get up, and I go to work. And I walk off that feeling of despondency, immersing myself in tasks and hurriedly checking off small wins as I go. I try yet again to prove myself a valuable ingredient of this life, if only a small cog in a grand wheel.

After all, it could be worse.