by Susannah Cowley
Ever since I was a little girl I was taught by my parents “remember to say please and thank you!” Whether going to a friend’s house for a playdate, walking out the door for school, or staying home with a babysitter for the night, it all came down to those seven words. And, as I grew older, I realized how much power a “thank you” can truly have on the people we say it to. I could see it in the eyes of the class door holder, a teacher who took time out of their day to stay after school and help students, and my friends when they did something kind for me when they were thanked. However, it wasn’t until I was older that I realized the power that recognizing and thanking others for what we have can have to make us happier ourselves.
The Thanksgiving season is notorious for going around the table and saying what we are thankful for, and that’s just why I love this time of year! We all need a reminder to be thankful at LEAST once every 12 months if not far more often. As we navigate the stress and business of life, our time can easily be spent dwelling on the sleep we don’t get, the time we don’t have, or the test we don’t ace. But how much more fulfilled and happy would our lives be if we took the time to sit down and think of all the good things that happened in our day? The friend who complimented us on our hair even though it was a “bad hair day”, the hug that our mom gave us when we walked in the door, or our favorite song that just happened to be playing on the radio when we got in the car. The more often we can find simple things to be grateful for, the easier they will be to find in the future, and once we start noticing them in our own lives, we will want to share the happiness we feel with others.
About six months ago, one of my church leaders shared a very similar message with me, and challenged me to keep a “jar of thanks” on my bedside table. She advised that each night before going to bed I take the time to write at least one good thing that I was blessed with that day on a sticky note and to place it in a Mason Jar. While I wish I could say I was perfectly diligent and did this religiously each day for the past year, I cannot. However, I did a better job than I would have without my jar, and I do have quite the collection of sticky notes accumulating in there. Now every time I look at it perched on the shelf above my dorm room desk, it makes me think of how blessed I am to be alive and to have so much joy in my life. It makes the bad days seem better and good days seem best. Once I remember all those happy moments that I have had, it encourages me to write another one down, put it in the jar, and go find someone else who need a sticky-note-worthy moment in their day. This holiday season, I challenge you to start your own jar of thanks. Or maybe all you can do is sit down for five or ten minutes and write out a list of all the blessings you can think of. Once you start, it’s hard to stop, and I am confident it will make your life a little brighter and your desire to bless others’ lives a little stronger.