What Makes You Grateful?

As a writer for children, I am used to having a new character’s voice come to me at any time of the day or night. I may be dreaming or driving. Bathing or taking a walk. Sometimes, I am working at the toy store, where a conversation with a young child can easily spark an idea.

But never has a project spoken to me, at least in the way that the Look For the Good Project has. It started with a newspaper article I read in our local paper. I recognized the photo of Anne Kubitsky, who I met this past May when we were both honored with a 2011 New Voices in Children’s Literature: Tassy Walden Award. She was the winner in the illustrated picture book category. What a treat to hear her voice read Graycie’s Catch. And what an honor to see her accompanying illustrations. Anne captivated the audience with her heartfelt illustrations, and her obvious love for kindness. (I have always had a soft spot for whales.)

I cut out the article and posted it near my desk. With Christmas approaching, I hurried to finish photo projects for my girls’ gifts. My time was limited; I was behind in everything. Yet, I could not stop thinking about Anne and the whale and her vision for a community art project that would become part of a traveling exhibit, featuring postcards from all over the world in which people of all ages state what makes them grateful.

My father would have loved this project and perhaps this is why the idea of it tugged at my heart. Even in pain, he would always stop to be thankful: thankful for the clouds, the comical behavior of a tiny chipmunk, the love of his family, the opportunity to speak to a grandchild or his great-granddaughter, and the ability to express himself through his writing. My father always appreciated the warmth of another’s hand, a stranger’s smile and compassion. A clean pair of sheets. Socks on his cold feet. His thinning hair being brushed. A small window so he could watch the birds outside.

The more I thought about Anne’s vision, the more grateful I was for my family, especially while I poured over photos at CVS, waiting behind a woman who had left her coupons in the car. I told her there was no need to apologize, even though it was nearly midnight and I had worked for ten hours at the toy store. She went to her car for her coupons and her bonus bucks, and when the total was finally tallied, she needed to spend 98 cents more to be able to use her CVS bucks.

“I am so sorry to hold you up,” she said.

“Relax, take your time,” I told her, studying a photo of my youngest dressed as Santa at the age of six months. (I had taped cotton balls to a bib to use as a beard.)

“Just buy some candy,” said the clerk.

“I don’t eat candy, though my dad does, but only one kind.” The woman perused the candy selection, not finding what she was after. She became flustered and then . . .

“Perfect! I found it.” She held a bag of Skittles in her hand.

My father’s favorite candy.

I believe his spirit is out there, watching over his family, nudging us when we need that extra push, and especially while our family struggled to get through our first Christmas without him.

This encounter was my father nudging me.

He would have been so grateful for that bag of Skittles, and so I contacted Anne to see how I could help with the project, because I believe in her message: the importance of reflecting on what is good.

My father taught me this, and I am forever grateful for his lessons. Every day I follow his example and find beauty in this world. Beauty that makes me stop whatever I am doing to wonder, and to be thankful for the smallest of miracles: the extraordinary within the ordinary. In this post, as with others, I share some of my photos, including the grateful postcards sent by my five-year-old granddaughter.

What about you, what makes you grateful? Ask yourself, ask your children, ask your friends. Ask a stranger. Spread the word and send a postcard. Send two. Write something. Draw something. Reflect on what is good. As Anne likes to say, “You are invited to write/ paint/ draw a glimmer of gladness on a postcard.”

The project’s link is www.lookforthegoodproject.org. There you will see a sample of many of the inspirational cards being received. Press links are included here: www.lookforthegoodproject.org/about

Postcards are needed by the 15th of January, though any received after that will become part of the exhibit. (You can mail multiple cards in one envelope to save individual postage). The premier show will be held in New London, CT on January 28th  at the Custom House Maritime Museum. I hope to see you there!

I have a template for three postcards per sheet that you can print on cardstock and cut up. Let me know if you would like a copy emailed to you. I always keep a handful in my purse to share as needed.

Happy New Year to all, and may you find what makes you grateful in this world. Be thankful. Peace.

P. S. – Dad, I miss you. Love you always, Betsy







13 thoughts on “What Makes You Grateful?

  1. Hi Betsy, this is a beautiful post and a wonderful idea! Your father sounds like a wonderful person. What a lovely legacy he has left to his family. And I do beleive that was your dad letting you know he was there with you, in that line, while you waited patiently for the customer to decide on which candy to buy her own dad. My pop loved hard candies–butterscotch/peppermints. And now I find myself liking them, too. 🙂

    I am grateful for my family & friends, the birds chirping outside my window, for the cloudless blue sky, the redtailed hawks that circle above our neighborhood, my job at Joann’s, co-workers, and all of the different people I get to meet each day (even the grouchies because I can learn from them). I am grateful for books filled with stories, my critique group, all-you-can eat chips & salsa, my worn Minnie Mouse jeans, Facetime, and chocolate. Lots of chocolate. lol.

    And… I am grateful you are my Facebook friend!

    Maria Toth 🙂

  2. Thanks, Maria!
    I love all your evocative details! Are you in a critique group for writing?
    Your comment on “grouchies” reminded me of something my dad would always say: “Be gracious to those you can’t please, and grateful for those you do.” I have always tried to follow that rule.
    It appears that we are kindred spirits. I do hope to meet you in person whenever I am in your area. New Jersey?

    1. Hi, Lena, I love the image of you and your daughter making cards together! Enjoy your Grateful Party! Miss you. Betsy

  3. I love this idea. I say at least 5 things I’m grateful for every night before I go to bed. I’m on vacation so don’t have post cards at my ready, so would very much appreciate it if you’d e-mail me the postcards. Thanks! And may the memory of your dad live on.

  4. Thanks, Carol!
    I love how you say at least 5 things you’re grateful for every night! You are an inspiration! I will email you the pdf file, but you can also go to http://www.lookforthegoodproject.org. She has an online submission for grateful comments. Postcards are more personal and you can draw something as well.

  5. Keeping my mind on all my many blessings is what gets me through the hardships. We have SO much to be grateful for, some of it sometimes taken for granted, but to some it up on one phrase: I’m grateful every moment I’m breathing 🙂

    And I love how you ended up in a store and witnessed a moment in time that brought that special memory of your father close 🙂 Precious stuff…

  6. So true, Donna. We all must make a habit of stopping whatever we are doing to be grateful.
    As for the Skittles, there have been a number of incidents involving my dad’s favorite candy since he passed. All of which we take as a sign that he is watching over us.
    And we are grateful.

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