Your first assignment of the new year is to get out a piece of paper and a pen. Got it? Good. Now, start listing every person who has ever made a positive impact on your life.
This will take a while.
Once you get going, you may need more paper. Countless people have entered your life, some just for a moment, who have made a difference for the better.
There may be obvious ones. Your parents, your kids, your spouse, your friends, your neighbors, your teachers, your spiritual mentors, your co-workers and colleagues. Listing all those names should get the ball rolling.
Your pen won’t be able to keep up with your brain as all the names and faces start to pop up. Your little league coach who always encouraged you. Your daughter’s preschool teacher who understands her shyness. The cashier at the bank who always greets you with a smile.
There will be people who you do not know their names. That’s okay. List them too. Guy at the tire place who fixed my flat. Bus driver of the airport shuttle who told jokes. Salvation Army bell ringers who sang carols.
You may run out of steam for writing before you run out of people.
Famous people you have never met who inspire you make the list. So does anyone who has eased your burden in any way, even if they simply made you smile as you left the gas station as they held the door for you.
Has a drive thru window teenager ever made small talk or given you/your car/your anything a compliment? They make the list. Has a toddler at the mall ever winked at you or waved vigorously and said Hi to you about three thousand times? They make the list. Has a post office clerk taken extra time with you to solve your packing problem even if they had a long line behind you? They make the list.
Every day, in lots of ways, people are helping people. People are helping you. Some know you, some do not. Some will never cross your path again. It does not matter. For that instance, they made your load lighter, they eased your journey.
I have editors that I’ve never met in the flesh. They are all on my list. I have teachers that I don’t remember their names. They are on my list. I have strangers who have helped me find my way in foreign cities. They’re on my list.
Some people I think are angels. Most are just ordinary folks going about life. Just like you. You have helped countless people in countless of ways and you never think about it. It’s just what we do. We humans connect.
We do it all the time. We help out our fellow man. We really do. When you watch the news and see all the stories of when we do not act in this way toward each other, get out your list. Use it to remind yourself of all the good people in the world.
There will always be a few troubled people causing pain and tremendous grief who make the headlines. All the people on your list don’t make the news, but they are the real force in this world.
Day in and day out, you have more people doing little things to help than “bad guys” doing big things that hurt. Maybe a new gratitude practice could be to list three people each day who helped the day go smoother. The UPS guy, the mailman, an email friend….
The list never ends. And you are on mine. Thank you.