Published in Kankakee Daily Journal November 14, 2018
Several weeks ago I wrote about three practices we can use to live a more positive and successful life. I wrote “First I’m keeping a written diary of 5-7 items each day that I’m thankful for.” In the past. I’ve tried doing it in my head rather than writing them down. But there is a “magical” power of putting it down in black and white. To be perfectly honest, I haven’t done it every day on paper and at times still resort to keeping a list in my head. I have noticed, though, that when I actually write it down it has a more profound impact. Across the last six weeks there are three things I have learned more deeply about gratefulness. As we are heading towards Thanksgiving I think you will find these of interest.
Noticing the small things. After a while you’ll find you have noticed all the big things like family, friends, and your house. At first I felt foolish writing down things like: “My three cats are all healthy and doing well; I can’t believe the abundance we have in our grocery stores; we have consistent power and heat;” and on it goes. But I started realizing when you actively look for the good, it is, as the President often says “Tremendous!” In the process of vigorously looking for things to be grateful for, it opens up whole new vistas.
Most of your news is good news. With all the chaos and rancor we have been through in the last few years, we get conditioned to pay attention to the negative. Having free speech and a democratic society is not always pretty, but in the end it provides the best system in the world. The news media tends to practice “What bleeds leads.” Why? Because we tend to notice them more. Without being naïve, I’m less and less interested in somebody else’s idea of news and thus try and construct my own view of what is going on. Without in any way diminishing the tragedies in our society, we have got to put them in perspective. Thousands of airplanes will take off/land every day without incident. O’Hare Airport has approximately a million take-off and landings each year and the last major crash was in 1979. Millions of people will go to restaurants, bar and grills, and other establishments without incident each and every day.
Probably most of you have experienced an auto accident or two during your lifetime (hopefully minor). Chances are you said to yourself afterwards, “If I would have only left two minutes earlier or later this would not have happened.” It is a common and natural human reaction. But do you think about the thousands of times that you did not have an accident because you left at just the right time? So consider broadcasting your own good news and be thankful for the blessings– not only what does happen but what does not happen.
Share with others that you are thankful for them. A few weeks ago I mentioned that my major professor, friend, mentor, and from time-to-time coauthor, Dr. William Anthony of Florida State had been stricken by pancreatic cancer. I called another FSU professor, Dr. Perrewé, and asked where I could send a card to him. She said unfortunately Bill was in his very last days and gave me his wife’s e-mail. I was able to quickly pen an e-mail message to him. I got a kind note back from his wife that she would read it to him. Even though I had expressed my appreciation to him across the years, this one last time was such a privilege for me and hopefully meaningful to him. (If you have interest in what a great mentor is really like you can read the column I wrote May 22, 2013 featuring Dr. Anthony by going to www.daakecomments.Wordpress.com and search on the term mentorship.)
Again, as I’m learning, it is not always the big things in life that make a difference-there are so many small things when you start looking for them. A couple weeks ago when we stopped at a rest area on I-80 West, it occurred to me how lucky we have it to be able to stop in a well-run, clean, maintained rest area. On the way out we encountered two of the custodial workers and expressed our appreciation to them. They just beamed! I’m not patting myself on the back, but rather suggesting how my days are so much more positive by noticing others’ work. As I mentioned the last time the single best book on gratefulness, is Janice Kaplan’s “The Gratitude Diaries.” It would make a great Christmas or Thanksgiving present for yourself or others.
I want to end this column by sharing with you three people in our community that deserve thanks and gratitude for doing their jobs so well each day. I will use only their first names, but I know you will recognize them immediately. The first one is Susan at Walmart in Bradley. She cheerful, helpful, and does all the little extra things in an extraordinary matter. Secondly is Nicki at Mayberry Junction in Manteno. She makes dining a fun experience! She “insults” you in the nicest, friendly, fun-loving way. She would fit in very well at Ed Debevic’s in Chicago. The third person is Tina at the Bourbonnais Post Office. She is efficient, kind, knowledgeable and patient. Actually the whole staff at the post office is great, but I want to give a special call out to her.
Whether you keep a gratefulness diary (which I highly recommend) or just keep track in your head, during this Thanksgiving season and even more importantly the rest of the year, understand gratefulness is a powerful happiness tonic.
Dr. Don Daake holds an MBA from the University of Iowa with a marketing concentration and a Ph.D. in strategy from Florida State University. He is a professor emeritus at Olivet. He can be contacted at email@example.com