Things I’m Grateful for in 2020 (yes, really!)

For many years, I dismissed the whole “power of positive thinking” thing as a bunch of fluffy nonsense. And then, like a lot of truths, I started to believe it when I realized that the idea is rooted not in 90s self-help books but the bible. In Philippians 4:8, Paul is writing a letter to a tiny church in the city of Philippi (FILL-uh-pie, for those of you keeping score at home), and says:

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”

Huh. It seems like maybe I should pay attention to this whole “power of positive thinking” thing. So, earlier this past summer, I started gratitude journaling. Being thankful was undoubtedly a vital part of the exercise. Still, equally important to me was living out the truth in Philippians 4:8 and training my mind to pay attention to what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy.

Recently I reviewed the contents of my six months of gratitude journaling and – unsurprisingly – noticed that what I’d recorded tended to be routine, day-to-day things. Mountain-top experiences certainly are valuable and memorable, but they are also relatively rare. For me, training my mind to look for the positive was much more about capturing the small things in life.

Here are the top three things that stood out to me as I reviewed my journal:

First, my Highmark hoodie was a gift from a client, and I wear it so often my wife has started to periodically remind me that I do, in fact, own other articles of clothing. It’s amazingly comfortable and cozy and also reminds me of one of the companies I am privileged to serve. By far, “Highmark sweatshirt” was the single most repeated thing in my journal.

Second, small “excellent” things. What I listed was pretty random, but it makes me smile to go back and remember all the little things that I’d noted as excellent.

A few examples:

  1. I saw a cool logo on a service van.
  2. I met a guy with impressive dreadlocks.
  3. My son and I watched the pretty colors of soap on the windshield during a carwash.
  4. My snowblower always starts on the first pull.
  5. My wife and I saw a gas fireplace that looked impressively real.
  6. I read an engaging fiction book.

Third, my family. Sure, we had some great Christmas-card-worthy experiences this past year, but what I captured in my journal was small, day-to-day things that I was thankful for. A few examples:

  1. My wife, Amy, is willing to tell me what she wants rather than hint at it.
  2. My 8-year-old daughter had a nightmare and woke me up to ask if I would sleep on the floor in her bedroom.
  3. My 10-year-old daughter referred to Parmesan cheese as “pepper john cheese,” which cracked us all up. English is her third language, so these verbal mix-ups always make me smile. Do you know how adorable it is when a toddler mixes up her words? It is easily twice as cute when coming from a 4th grader.
  4. My 6-year-old son learned what a “wedgie” is and thinks that giving daddy a wedgie is the funniest thing in the entire world.
  5. When we were on vacation, I had to do a little bit of work, and my wife was supportive and didn’t complain at all.
  6. Sometimes my kids come to cuddle with me when they first wake up.
  7. We watched a nature show that featured “Popcorn the Frizzle Chicken.” I didn’t know that there even was such a thing as a frizzle chicken, let alone one named Popcorn, but it was hilarious and fun to laugh at as a family.

This daily (okay, most-days-ly) gratitude practice has helped me be more aware of these joy-filled moments throughout my life and provides a cool way to look back at what is generally regarded as a pretty crappy year. 2020 can feel like it was all bad, but these reminders tell a different story – if you look for them, 2020 was filled with things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy!

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