One of my blessings that I regularly look forward to is that I get to partake in a group telephone call each week. Most weeks there are 15 to 25 people on the call. We live in different states all across the United States, and we range in age from being in our 40s to our 80s. Each week we try to talk about a different topic, and we generally avoid politics or controversial topics. We may also share our joys and sorrows from week to week, and when needed we may ask for prayers and uplifting thoughts. As an unspoken rule though, we aim to keep things positive and pretty upbeat.

Recently our topic centered on setting goals or New Years resolutions. When the topic was first announced, I wondered what sort of stories and experiences other callers would share. Would most of the comments center around things like healthier eating and getting more exercise? Would some people focus on goals like reading more books this year than last year? Would people be hoping to spend more time doing other activities and less time watching television or being online? While a few of those things were mentioned, I noticed that the majority of people in our group had a different focus.

While perhaps it should not have come as a great surprise to me that people who would choose to participate in this type of weekly call would often have other goals, the call did not go exactly where I thought it might. Several of the people who chose to speak are people that I have come to know as positive and upbeat, and I look forward to the weeks that they choose to speak up and contribute to the conversation. For many of them, their outlook may well play a factor into how they have so gracefully aged into their 70s or 80s. I know from previous conversations that some of the callers have overcome great struggles in life, such as fighting cancer, the death of a spouse or other loved ones, financial difficulties, getting out of abusive situations, and much more.

The most commonly shared goals and New Year’s resolutions were those that focused on some type of positivity. Additionally, the people who spoke up said that those were the goals they ended up finding the easiest to stick to over a long period of time. Due to their success and how achieving such goals made them feel, many of the callers have chosen to keep the same or similar resolutions year after year. I was so fascinated by some of their stories that I found myself taking notes for things I would like to try or consider doing in the year to come.

One person shared that he liked to keep his focus on being positive by hanging uplifting quotes on his refrigerator to see each day. His current thought was, “Attack each day with a level of effort and enthusiasm unknown to mankind.” He uses that to encourage and remind him to do good deeds for others. One of his favorite ways of bringing joy to others is that he shares a joke, a pun, or some sort of funny story every week to make us smile or chuckle.

A gentleman shared that he likes to do good deeds, which also helps him to feel better. One of his favorites is helping people get their grocery carts as they enter a store. He smiles and will greet them, as he pushes them carts to use while shopping. He loves the smiles and brief conversations that he gets in return. He noted that it costs him nothing to do this kind act, and it’s a win-win for him and those he touches with kindness. He always leaves feeling better than when he started.

Another person said that her goal was to make someone smile every day. Then she continues to think about and pray for that person throughout the rest of the day. She says she gets creative with how she reaches out to people, whether it is in person, waving at someone, giving a hug, or calling people on the phone. Sometimes she has someone in mind that she wants to reach out to, and other days she waits to see how an opportunity will arise to interact with someone. Another caller piggy-backed off of that idea and said how fun it could be to step outside on her porch to greet neighbors as they walk by with their dogs. She went on to say that this past year with being isolated during the pandemic has led her to want to write more cards and letters to send to uplift people she knows.

Someone else talked about a program she heard about through her church where throughout the year people write Christmas cards that will get distributed in December to inmates throughout the state. In 2020, so many cards were written that every inmate and worker in all the facilities in the state of Ohio received one. There were enough cards that they were also able to distribute to some facilities in five other states, including Michigan and Nebraska. It’s a program that even homebound people can do to reach out and touch someone else’s life.

One gentleman shared that his goal for the last 12 years or so has been to make this year more fun than last year. He shared that 2020 may have been the only year he wasn’t sure he succeeded in doing that, but it certainly makes the goal in 2021 seem more easily attainable! He said that this encourages him to look for fun things that make him happy from day to day. It could be as simple as playing a song he loves on the piano, and other days may mean bigger planned events like going out to dinner and a baseball game with friends.

Another woman on the call shared that she and her husband were using an application to help them better understand as they read through the Bible this year. Other callers shared that in some years they have set the goal to read through the Bible in a year or at least read scripture daily. We talked about how being intentional with reading first thing in the morning or right before going to bed can help set the tone for the day or encourage a more peaceful sleep. Someone else shared that to hold herself accountable, she would not eat breakfast (her favorite meal of the day) until she had finished reading her morning devotional.

Another caller shared the idea of keeping a “Blessings Jar” on her bedside table. Each evening she would write at least one or two blessings she encountered that day. Some days had special events like celebrating an anniversary or birthday or going on vacation. Other days the blessings were smaller or more simplistic, like drinking a great cup of coffee or enjoying the sunshine. She said that the idea was to focus on the blessings and gratitude, even on difficult or seemingly bad days. Then at the end of the year, on New Year’s Eve, she would open the jar and read back through each slip of paper to fondly remember and give thanks for at least 365 blessings from the past year.

Following that same idea, someone said that they love a quote from the song “Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep).” The lyrics sing, “If you’re worried and you can’t sleep, Just count your blessings instead of sheep, And you’ll fall asleep counting your blessings.”

As the world around us has so many turbulent things going on, and current events can often be disheartening, I recognize that for my own health and wellbeing I need to be intentional about focusing on the positive. Positivity and gratitude will be a focus of mine in 2021. Starting today (and maybe even tonight as I fall asleep) I will be counting more of my blessings. Will you join me? What is a blessing that you are thankful for in your life today?