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