The “129 Things to Be Thankful For” Challenge
While navigating some significant struggles years ago, I found myself feeling pretty down. My husband had recently lost his job, and to secure new employment, we had to leave my hometown and family behind.
Just weeks after relocating, we learned that his new employer was floundering financially and found ourselves with a 55% reduction in salary. I was seven months pregnant, and while I was making some income with freelance work, it wasn’t anywhere near enough to make up for my husband’s lost income and the fact that we had not yet sold our previous home.
I did not have the mental or physical energy to make new friends, and our kids were struggling to make the best of things in their new school. I was trying to keep my chin up and take things in stride, especially for our kids, but just beneath the surface, I felt the full weight of it all.
Inspired by my daughter’s example
And then one weeknight, in the middle of that challenging time, a single interaction with my 8-year-old daughter changed everything. She burst in through the front door, wearing a big smile and waving a white sheet of paper in my face.
“Look, Mom! I have 129 things to be thankful for!”
“Wow!” I said, impressed and smiling myself, as I took in the beaming face of a daughter who had so keenly felt the downsides of our move. Scanning her list, I could see that she had indeed found 129 things to be thankful for, everything from family members to the trees in our neighborhood. She had written the list as part of a contest with other kids at a church activity to see who could think of the most things to be grateful for.
“It was easy,” she said. “I have so much to be thankful for!”
Inspired by her example, I created my own list of 129 things to be thankful for. And in the process, I learned as never before that even when things are difficult, there is still so much to be grateful for.
Over the next few years, I continued to create an annual list of 129 things to be thankful for, and then, at some point, I no longer made the lists. I still had moments of consciously practicing gratitude but nothing like those lengthy lists.
Gratitude in the middle of a pandemic
And then the pandemic hit, and, like everyone, our lives changed dramatically overnight. No personal or business travel. No graduation ceremonies, special events, or activities for our kids. No visits with extended family. The loss of a job. Medical emergencies and hospitalizations. A country in political turmoil. And so much more.
One of the low points was when I experienced a sudden and life-threatening medical emergency that landed me in the hospital for four days. My husband said it felt like he was dropping me into a black hole when he drove me to the emergency room but couldn’t go in with me. I was so sick, and the treatment was so grueling, that I lost touch with the larger world for a time. When I began to improve, I picked up my phone to reconnect with my family and the larger world.
It felt good to reconnect with my family but not so much the larger world. The news was so depressing with the worsening pandemic and the growing political storm. I did not have the energy for it, so I searched YouTube for something comforting that I could enjoy in small bites and landed on Quintessence with Susanna Salk. I had never heard of the show before, but how I needed those short and engaging episodes, where Susanna visits the homes of designers and style makers, transporting the viewer to a warm and welcoming place.
While watching the show from my hospital bed, I recognized just how thankful I am for simple pleasures and comforts. They may not make up for all of the challenges we face, but what a difference they can make. And that realization got me thinking — what else am I grateful for amid this pandemic that I might be taking for granted? And should I make a list?
At that point, I remembered my daughter’s list of 129 things to be thankful for and the lists she inspired me to make. Yes, it was time to make another list. And so, I made one.
And, not surprisingly, my epic list of 129 things to be grateful for felt just right for these epic times. An energizing and powerful reminder that even during difficult times, there is still so much to be grateful for.
Here are a few of the things I included on my list:
· I made it through the medical emergency
· We have been able to work remotely from home
· My husband and I have enjoyed some unexpected time with our young adult children
What are your 129 things?
I could share 126 things more, and then some, but I didn’t write this article to share my 129 things. Rather, I wrote it to invite you to consider making a list of your own. What would you include in your 129? And what difference might such a list make?