As 2021 draws to a close, it may be fair to describe the last two years as one of the more surreal – and frankly most challenging – periods of many people’s lifetimes.
Many households have experienced unparalleled economic challenges. And many individuals have suffered the tragedy of loss in an intimate way. Worldwide, nearly 5.2 million people is reported to have died from the coronavirus (unofficially, the number is estimated to be closer to 17 million – and as high as 250 000 in South Africa).
We want to devote this final message of 2021 to a simple reminder; that, however contradictory it may sound, one of the most reliable breaks from negative preoccupations is gratitude. We want to encourage you to oppose agitation with gratefulness; to replace despair with appreciation. And to make this way of opposing adversity your key defensive strategy, going forward.
Cicero, the Roman statesman, once said that gratitude is the greatest of virtues, and the parent of all others. He reminded us that although we tend to believe that happiness will make us grateful, that instead, it is gratefulness that paves the way for happiness.
The struggles of the soul disperse when gratitude commences. Our brain cannot be in a state of gratitude and a state of sadness at the same time. Our soul cannot stay in deficit, when we prefer to acknowledge the good that exists; when we choose to turn our little blessings into meaningful admirations.
Let’s learn to transform more ordinary days into celebrations. To more astutely witness – and honour what is still good in life. To find godsends in and amidst our challenges.
Let’s open all our senses to the poetic eloquence that await us in so many of life’s familiar scenes. And allow a sense of abundance to dissolve any privation we may experience.
At some point in the last two years, you might have realised that your heart is more brittle than you ever thought. If so, may you find courage from A.A. Milne’s observation in Winnie-the-Pooh: “Piglet noticed that even though he had a very small heart, it could hold a rather large amount of gratitude”.
“Thank you” remains the best prayer you can say. May gratitude be the meditation in which you send off 2021 – and the spirit in which you decide to decorate your 2022!