Sunny Side Up

There is something insidious about negativity. It grows like storm clouds on a sunny day: little by little covering the whole sky with gray and gloom. No matter how sweet life can seem at any given moment, we can find ways of tempering the sweetness with sour. Not all of us do this, of course; some people are irrepressibly cheerful and positive. But there is something about our culture right now that celebrates complaining.

Recently, I listened to a presentation by a man who had been abroad for a number of years. A person in the audience asked an insightful question: “How has America changed since you were last here?” He didn’t hesitate. “Everyone is so cynical,” he said. “Positive people are looked down on as being naïve.”

He’s right. I know, because I find myself all too often falling into the grip of grousing. It’s almost to the point where I feel I have to anchor any happy thought with a dour one. Every silver lining must have its cloud.

What’s the antidote? Thanksgiving. Not just the one day, obviously. It’s too easy to go once around the table laden with food and find something to be grateful for. What we need it to cultivate a new way of looking at life every day. Adults need it. So do kids.

So here’s what I did. Having recently seen a poster in a school I visited which outlined a hundred or so small things to be thankful for, I decided to do the same in my house. I taped up a large sheet of paper to a wall and encouraged everyone in the family to jot down thoughts as they went by. What little blessings could they note that usually get taken for granted? I sent us all out as “thanks-finders”.

The result was a wide-ranging collection of daily elements. Some were specific and small: getting a ride home on a rainy night. Others were broader. Overall, the list resulted in a heightened awareness in us of the goodness of life, of the gifts of God, both great and small. We began to develop a more cheerful view of life.

Gee, that sun feels good.

Bruce Van Patter

all material ©2005 Bruce Van Patter