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?
The Gratitude Challenge is in full swing. Here are days 11-23.
Day 23: I’m grateful for the Earth and especially for pretty sunsets.
Day 22: I’m grateful for green left turn arrows at busy intersections.
Day 21: I’m grateful for public libraries. I love the library!
Day 20: I’m grateful the Accountant knows how to fix things. It has sure come in handy over the years when stuff breaks around the house.
Day 19: I’m grateful for email and Facebook. It’s a fun way to waste my time and keep in touch with people.
Day 18: Kung Fu Punctuation. I’m excited and grateful to try it with my students. Every punctuation mark has its own little karate move. We will correct the sentence on paper and then stand up and act out the marks. I think the kids will get a kick out of it.
Day 17: Clouds. I’m grateful for beautiful, interesting clouds to look at on my drive home from work.
Day 16: I’m grateful for blankets.
Day 15: I’m grateful for my siblings and parents.
Day 14: Shoes. I’m grateful for them.
Day 13: Grateful for a working a car
Day 12: I’m grateful for my job. It’s good to work.
Day 11: I’m grateful for all the veterans and their families today.
What are you grateful for today?
This month I gave myself a gratitude challenge. Each morning before I went to work, I wrote down one thing I was grateful for on that day. The rule was that I couldn’t repeat things. At first, it was easy. I like food and I can be grateful for that. My family is awesome. My faith in God is important to me. Butterflies are pretty. Then it got harder and the days kept coming. By November 15th, I felt like I had found every known blessing on planet Earth. I was done saying all the typical things I normally recognize as a small blessings. I had to start looking harder. Guess what I discovered? Green arrows that let you turn left at busy intersections are really a blessing. When you hear your favorite song twice in one day, you can write that down on your gratitude list for the next day.
Today is November 30th. It’s the last day of my gratitude challenge. When I woke up this morning, I had a funny thought. I was grateful that this was the last day that I had to find something to be grateful for. I laughed pretty hard about my little thought, and then I decided that I was grateful for toilet paper. Life would be really miserable without toilet paper.
I always think about becoming a vegetarian after getting the turkey ready for Thanksgiving dinner. It just looks so helpless and dead.
It’s Thanksgiving and I’m grateful today. I’ve got so many blessings. God is good to me.