by Father Mark Goldasich
I’m always a sucker for those year-end roundups that appear in newspapers and magazines. As I read them, I’m astounded at all of the things that I either didn’t see the first time around or forgot over the course of the year.
Even though I proofread all The Leaven pages each week, I’m still surprised at how much I’ve forgotten when I read through our year-end roundup. I’m discovering, the older I get, that the big secret to remembering things is to write them down.
That’s why I’m so excited to do something different this year. I’ve seen this idea online for several years but, since I didn’t write it down, it flew quickly out of my mind. Not this time. It’s a simple thing that should yield great benefits over these next 12 months.
It’s called a memory jar. All you need is a jar (obviously), some slips of paper and a pen. Situate the jar in a convenient place, like on a kitchen counter. The idea is to make a note of good things that happen to you during the year, things that make you smile or feel special. When something like that occurs, grab a slip of paper right away, write down the event and the date, and place it into the jar. Then, on New Year’s Eve of 2016, you’ll open up that jar and read through all of those wonderful things that were a part of your life the past year.
These don’t need to be life-changing events, either, like the day you won the Powerball jackpot. (If you do, please call me.) A simple smile that you received, a quote from a good book or homily, or something that made your heart feel special are ideal items to take note of. I’ll bet that the smaller the good thing that happens, the more likely you are to forget it . . . if you don’t write it down.
But I’d suggest that you take things a step further. Let me illustrate with this brief story:
In 2005, an 8-year-old girl named Briton Nordemeyer from Brandon, South Dakota, wanted to help the children who had recently lost everything during Hurricane Katrina. So, when her tooth fell out in the fall of that year, she decided to donate the money she’d get from the tooth fairy to the Red Cross.
However, instead of waiting for the tooth fairy to arrive, Briton mailed her tooth to the Red Cross! She put in a note explaining that the tooth fairy would render payment on arrival.
When news of this little girl’s generosity reached the public, an anonymous “tooth fairy” contributed $500 to the charity, thus giving the story a fairy-tale ending. (Adapted from “Tooth Fairy for Needy Kids,” found in “1001 Illustrations That Connect,” edited by Craig Brian Larson and Phyllis Ten Elshof.)
That’s why I’d recommend that your memory jar contain not only the good things that were done for you or that made you smile, feel cared for or blessed, but also all of the acts of kindness that you’ve done to bring a smile or a bit of help to other people. Briton has a marvelous spirit. She literally gave of herself — a tooth — to help others. In this brand-new year — to make that memory jar overflow — let’s follow her good example.
Since many people hunker down during these cold winter days, why not spend a little bit of that indoor time paring down your possessions to donate? Even better is to give of your time in some volunteer effort: serve at a food kitchen, visit with a lonely neighbor, be a tutor to students, read books for the visually handicapped, teach a skill or talent you have (woodworking, knitting, computers, cooking or quilting, for example), or do some handyman chores or run errands for a disabled person. Any of these would make a marvelous entry for your memory jar . . . and theirs.
If 2016 is to be a time of joy and fulfillment, then start making those memories right now. (Just don’t forget to write them down.)