Dear Pope Francis,
One of the biggest pitfalls I face on a regular basis is the poor-little-me’s. It’s a terrible condition when I focus on all the things in my life that I perceive to be horrible. It’s like when I stub my toe or hurt a finger. Even though I have ten fingers and ten toes, all I do is focus on the one that is hurt, not the nine that are fine. Practically, this means that I am focusing on all the reading that I have to do, rather than the fact that the reading is in preparation for a trip to Europe (which I leave for in two weeks!).
At a Theology on Tap talk last Monday, I was challenged to get out of this mindset. The speaker, Mary Jo Leddy, talked about the importance of being intentionally grateful, what she calls ‘radical gratitude’ (which is also the title of her book). She suggested that we focus on being grateful for the day as soon as it begins, from the moment we wake up, instead of waiting until the end.
This idea struck a chord for me. Usually when I wait until the end of the day to be grateful, my gratitude is contingent on how much I accomplished. There is a problem with this: when I wait until the end of the day I never actually get to the gratitude. Like the sore finger and toe, I focus only on the things I didn’t get done, like painting my nails, straightening my desk or reading, rather than celebrating everything I did accomplish, like submitting job applications, writing a couple blog posts and cleaning the kitchen. The things I didn’t get done are smaller details, but it shouldn’t completely derail my day that I didn’t have time to get to them, whereas I should celebrate the fact that I was able to focus and accomplish some bigger, time consuming projects.
In the last few months there has been a trend on Facebook called 100 Happy Days (#100HappyDays). Every day for one hundred days people post a picture of something that made them happy. The hope is that at the end of the hundred days the people will have developed a habit of looking for the happy things in their lives. There is nothing wrong with finding the happy things, but I feel like I need to be more grateful – no more poor-little-me’s!
My remedy? Starting tomorrow, June 1, I want to start 100 Grateful Days. For me it will probably be posted on my personal Facebook page, but I don’t know whether it will be pictures or words, or both. We’ll see!
I invite you, Pope Francis and readers of LTP, to join me in 100 Grateful Days. I encourage you to make it your own: If you’re not comfortable sharing on Facebook, then start a gratitude journal; maybe one hundred days is too daunting, so start with fifty, or twenty-one. Try writing a haiku about what you are grateful for, or maybe drawing is more your style. Get as creative as you want. Want some company for the adventure? Share the idea with your friends (Mary Jo recommended that we build a community of grateful people)! If you do want to share your journey with us at LTP, tag us on Facebook (@Letterstothepope, and #100GratefulDays) or use #LTP and #100GratefulDays on Twitter, or just let us know in the comment section below.
I’ll make sure to check in regularly about how this project is going!