Over the past couple weeks, my mom shared a big secret with me. So, I thought I’d share it with the internet. Seems only right.
She told me that for the past three years, she has had the same, secret New Year’s resolution. Three years ago, she decided that she wanted her New Years resolution to be to do a routine act of kindness. But she wasn’t going to tell anyone about it. She figured if she told people, she’d get praise for the act and that would defeat the whole purpose of being kind. So, in secret, she decided on a random act of kindness she could do routinely on a day-to-day basis that would help someone. She didn’t want it to be anything huge that she would have trouble fulfilling, but she wanted it to be something just inconvenient enough that she had to go out of her way to do it.
She decided that she would straighten the grocery carts in the parking lot stalls every time she returned her cart somewhere. She couldn’t just put her cart away, she had to straighten however many carts were there. She did it at the grocery store, Target, while out running errands… Everywhere she went, she’d put her cart away and then hook together all the other carts in that particular stall. She said it wasn’t a huge thing, but she was sure it made a difference to the employees who had to corral all those carts every day.
For three years, she made this same resolution and for three years she continued to silently straighten the shopping carts in parking lots.
“But,” she confided in my this past week, “I think I’m going to have to pick another task for this year.”
“How come?” I asked.
“Well, I have started to become a little obsessive about shopping carts. I’ve noticed that I’ve started sort of…well…yelling at people about putting their carts away!”
Turns out, my mom has grown tired of people dropping carts all over the parking lots because SHE’S the one who now has to go collect them. So whenever she sees someone drop the cart somewhere other than the stall, she barks out something like, “You know, someone has to clean that up!”
“It’s sort of defeating the purpose of my New Year’s resolution,” my Mom laughed.
I thought that was such a funny story! I hadn’t know any of that about my mom and I thought it was such a simple, sweet gesture. Normally, I don’t do a New Year’s resolution. I think they are kind of silly, really. But after hearing about how my mom had turned hers into a three-year habit, I decided that this year I wanted to try one. And I wanted it to be something that, like my Mom’s, I could do every day. Something small enough that I could keep it up, but something just enough of an inconvenience that I would be reminded each time of the act I had chosen.
2010 was not a good year for our family. Actually, I think it was the worst year of my life. And that’s not a dramatic statement. That’s the plain truth. But over the past couple months as I have been working to pull myself out of this season of depression, I have really tried to focus on all the GOOD things in my life. Things that I have to be grateful for. And, you know what? There are a lot of things in my life that I am thankful for. But I have the tendency to throw the baby out with the bathwater (as my Grandma says). When something goes wrong, I tend to think EVERYTHING has gone wrong and that NOTHING is good.
In 2011, I am going to make a conscious effort to be more grateful. To acknowledge every day things that are good in my life. I got the idea of a gratitude journal from my friend, Ann, who actually suggested it in a comment on my blog. When I first shared about my depression here, she suggested that I start keeping a gratitude journal to remind myself every day of the good in my life. I have tossed that idea around since she mentioned it. I love that idea. But I knew I couldn’t take on anything else in my daily routine. The idea of working, taking care of Bean (and soon Gracie), writing blog posts every day, and THEN keeping a journal was just too much. So, for the past couple months I have been trying to think about how I could incorporate a gratitude journal into my current daily life.
And here’s what I came up with…
Starting today, at the bottom of every Confessions post that I do, there will be one sentence in italics. It will say, “Today I am grateful for _______.” And that’s it. No explanation. No elaboration. Just a one-sentence, daily reminder to me of something I am grateful for in my life that day. Since I’m already posting every day, it won’t take any extra time for me to just stop and think for a minute about what I’m thankful for that day and throw it into a sentence, but it will make me stop and think about it. It may or it may not be related to the post I do that day. It may be something big, like God’s presence in my life, or it may be something small, like my dishwasher. But every day, there will be something listed that I am grateful for as a reminder to me of the good in my life.
2010 was rough. But 2011 already holds such promise for good things. But even if 2011 doesn’t come through – even if life gets EVEN HARDER for some reason than it has been, I know that there will still be things in my life that are good. And this year, I’m going to make sure a day doesn’t pass without me being thankful for those things.
Today I am grateful for new beginnings.