I’ve never liked the movie Pollyanna. She was always so glad and happy about everything. I don’t think it is humanly possible for a normal person to always be happy.
Despite my dislike of Pollyanna, I do a gratitude challenge every year. During the month of November, I think of one thing I’m thankful for each day and write it down. I’ve learned two key lessons about gratitude by doing this challenge year after year.
#1 I don’t have to be Pollyanna.
Sometimes life is hard. Sometimes life is Really hard. If my dog dies and my car gets stolen on the same day, I am not going to be happy about it. If a well-meaning friend tells me to be happy about it and to write a list of everything I’m thankful for, I might just yell at them. Bad stuff happens. That’s life. Gratitude is not pretending that life isn’t really hard sometimes. It’s not sweeping the pain and real grievances under the rug. It’s acknowledging and feeling the pain. Sometimes you have to feel the pain before you can start to heal. When I realized that I didn’t have to be “happy and grateful” all the time it opened up the possibility that I could be happy and feel gratitude some of the time. That made a huge difference and helped me to learn a second lesson on gratitude.
#2 Gratitude is an affirmation of goodness
There is goodness in the world. There are good people who are doing good things to make the world a better place for all of us. Gratitude is believing in that goodness. Yes, there is also badness and bad people in the world. We’ve seen a lot of that badness in the world the last few months. Gratitude is taking a minute to stop and see the good. You might see the good for a minute, for an hour or for a day. The important thing is that you stop and look for it. There is something magical that happens when you start hunting for the goodness. You will find it.
“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. His love endures forever” (Psalm 136:1)
What will you be grateful for today?