On January 1, I sat down and for the seventh year in a row, emptied my Gratitude Jar. 2021 was a difficult year for so many and it is impossible to not be aware, as an American, that our nation has begun to turn on itself, intent to destroy from the inside out what other nations could not from the outside in. Racism and sexism and all of the ugliness that our leaders have battled for decades still exist. People are afraid and hurting and they react to their pain by hurting others. It’s easy to see the lack of gratitude that emanates from our politicians and others in positions of leadership. It is not fair to refer to them as leaders – a title does not a leader make. My point is it’s easy to get lost in the fray.

And yet, as I sat surrounded by hundreds of memories of gratitude, watching the deer feast off the popcorn and cranberry strands in the trees, I was overcome, once again, with gratitude so deep tears welled in my eyes. It probably sounds cheesy and ridiculous to read. Maybe it comes across as bragging but that is not my intention.

I have watched as this Gratitude Jar, once a novel notion that turned into a fun exercise, evolve to something I no longer consciously think about. My expression of gratitude is no longer regulated to a jar or to writing on a specific piece of paper. I no longer have to remember or try.

The “jar” experience was tricky this year because at one point my jar actually broke. I found a quick replacement but it wasn’t the same. That didn’t stop the gratitude and in fact, this year I found myself doing things that were extensions of my thoughts on paper. One highlight was hosting and catering a Gratitude Party for everyone who played a role in me finding and buying the house of my dreams. The party wasn’t about me, not a housewarming to receive gifts – it was for my guests. Overcome with emotion at the champagne toast, I got through it and was then enveloped with hugs and more expressions of gratitude. I think it was then that I realized people were feeling what I was feeling too.

Ours is an aggressive nation where we tend to think the expression of some feelings, like anger or apathy, are signs of strength while others, like gratitude or vulnerability, are signs of weaknesses. Ours is also a nation of inverted sentiments – we’ve got it backwards. My expressions of gratitude have, at times, surprised people or made them feel self-conscious as if they’re not quite sure how to respond to someone saying words we seldom say out loud: “Thank you for being my friend. Thank you for listening. I appreciate your sense of humor. I love how dedicated you are. I am so grateful for our friendship.” Yet all year I started to see the gratitude I was feeling was rubbing off on others – they were starting to feel it too.

This was the year my Gratitude Jar spilled over from my internal life to my external. I no longer feel awkward or self-conscious about sharing my gratitude with others. If I am to be labeled, then I’m willing to be labeled as the one who expresses her gratitude and talks about feelings.

This morning, I walked out of the grocery store when something caught my eye – a quirky smile in my peripheral vision. I turned and walked back to discover a large milk jug painted like a snowman. He was sitting among a sale pile of picked-over holiday decorations smiling at me. I smiled back. I bought the snowman – not to be stored away until the next holiday season; rather, he will be fed every day this year. I’ve found my new Gratitude Jar and he’s so much more than a jar.

Happy New Year. Make this one your best by finding something every day to be grateful for and give yourself the gift of expressing it. It comes back to you in ways you cannot imagine.

Love to you all and as always, thanks for reading,

~ Haven