Getting good at giving thanks

“Gratitude is good medicine.” —Robert A. Emmons

A glass vase nearly full of small strips of paper sits on our piano. The pieces, holding this year’s memories, are folded up into small squares. We started this tradition a couple of years ago. It begins at 12 a.m. January 1 and ends at 11:59:59 on Dec. 31.

In between those bookends, any and all events that grab us throughout the year are documented and held in the vase until it’s time to pull them out one by one as tactile reminders of what we were grateful for.

There are no rules other than it must be a positive memory, a milestone, an accomplishment or something that brought a smile to our faces in the moment. Until they are unfolded at year’s end, they remain a private, personal joy, known only to the documenter.

It’s been good to start a new year with the best parts of the last one. And what better time of year to dig up some good stuff than at the beginning of a new one?

The gateway to this wrap-up season of Christmas and year-end is now upon us, or as some call it…Thanksgiv­ing.

While my immediate dinner plans this week say Thanksgiving, my heart screams Christmas. But in the spirit, I will do the best I can during this precursor week.

For the record, I like Thanksgiving just fine. I would never deny the power of being thankful and declaring it publicly by eating. I’m all for it. If thankfulness could be measured like, say… oh, I don’t know, the pounds of food supported by the average Thanksgiving plate, I believe the weight would climb the scale as we head through the holidays.

Maybe that’s why I’m ready to jump right into the entire year’s piece de resistance. The official season of giving and gratefulness. The ending with a shiny new beginning. The time when hearts soften and open up just a bit more, which potentially invites in more grateful moments.

At around this time last year, I decided gratitude would be my year’s mission. I hope my memory vase notes reflect what 2017 has been for me, a deliberate experiment in gratitude.

The intent was simple. Pay more attention to the right things. It generally resulted in more laughing or more crying than may be socially normal, but it’s been said those two things are bound to happen when real attention is paid.

Being so close to the end of this year, I can say the biggest difference for me came from deciding every day would be either a “Help” day, a “Thanks” day or a “Wow” day.

When only one word will do, I proved to myself that one of these words will always do.

Actually, now is a great time to give Thanksgiving its due and say thanks for that gem of a concept from writer Anne Lamott. She penned, “Help, Thanks, Wow… The Three Essential Prayers.” Words I’ve literally and figuratively copied and pasted many times throughout this year.

And it’s not over yet. There are still a few more weeks to go until 2018 and an extra inch or two of room left at the top of the vase we’re filling.


Shelley Plett is a graphic designer for the Free Press and Kansas Publishing Ven­tures. She can be reached at shelley@hillsborofree­

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