Attitudes of Gratitude

A December gratitude challenge to usher out 2020

Words by Alicia Woodward

Attitudes of Gratitude
Photography by David Iskander

The year 2020 may go down in history books as one of the worst years ever! How can we possibly be grateful for a year like this? It reminds me of a story I heard when I was young.

There once were twin boys. One was exceedingly pessimistic and the other exceedingly optimistic. Their parents, quite concerned, took them to a psychiatrist. The doctor put the pessimist in a room full of everything a child could ever desire. From a one-way mirror, they observed the boy sitting in the corner crying and wailing, “The candy is sticky! The toys are broken! The ice cream is melting! Everything is just terrible!”

Meanwhile, the optimist was placed in a room filled to the brim with horse manure. The boy was observed laughing and cheerfully digging through the manure. Astonished, the doctor went into the room and asked what he was doing. The young optimist replied, “With all this poop, there has to be a pony in here somewhere!”

I don’t know about you, but amid serious global and national challenges, I had my share of personal struggles this year. More than once, I felt like that little boy in a room full of horse manure. What the story taught me long ago was to always look for the pony.

When things seem bad, that’s when it’s most important to look for the good. It might sound overly simple and trite, but appreciating the little things really is what makes life worth living—an amazing sunrise, a funny joke, a bluebird at the feeder, a delicious meal, a beautiful song, a hot bath, a friendly wink.

Gratitude and optimism go hand-in-hand. Businessman Price Pritchett said, “There’s a lot more to be gained from being grateful than you might think. Managing your outlook towards appreciation and thankfulness feeds the soul. It brings calm and contentment. It lifts your levels and happiness and hope. Gratitude will amplify your positive recollections about times past, and in turn, sets the stage for optimism about the future.”

To help say goodbye to 2020 with an attitude of gratitude, I’m suggesting a December Gratitude Challenge. The idea is to focus on all the joy that still surrounds us at the bitter end of what was not the greatest year ever. There are many ways you can adapt the December Gratitude Challenge—keep a journal, make a paper chain, or just add it to your nightly prayers. I made a Gratitude Jar.

Every evening in December, my husband and I will each write something specific for which we were grateful that day and drop the slip of paper into the jar. On New Year’s Eve, we will read them together. (That my husband is going along with this will likely be the first thing I add to the jar!)

Even, no, especially in a year like this, December is a month when miracles happen. Tiny miracles. Big miracles. Good things are all around us. Sometimes we just have to dig a little to find them.

Alicia Woodward

Alicia is a retired teacher, an empty-nester, and a writer. She is an optimist who tries to keep life as simple and joyful as possible. She has degrees in journalism and secondary English education and taught middle school literature and language arts for 28 years. Along the way, she worked at several newspapers as a copywriter, reporter, and columnist. She co-authored the book Lessons in Loveliness with a dear co-worker with whom she wrote a blog by the same name. She and her husband, Mike, live a simple life on a quiet lake in Brown County, Indiana. They have four grown children and a six-year-old grandson. When they aren’t enjoying family or nature, Mike is cooking something spicy while Alicia is writing something cheery.

Website
thesimpleswan.com
Twitter
@simpleswan1

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