So Dani, over at the wonderful blog LoveBytes, invited me to write an essay today. This is what I wrote. You can find the orignal (plus so much more) at her blog by clicking RIGHT HERE. Do so, you won’t regret it. Meanwhile, here is my essay….
Finding What We Look For
2016 has come to an end and the general consensus is that it was a pretty horrible year. Lots of comments like, “I’m staying up this year until midnight just so I can see 2016 die.”
And yes, it was pretty bad.
The celebrity deaths! Leonard Cohen, Harper Lee, Alan Rickman, Pat Conroy, Prince, Anton Yelchin, David Bowie, John Glenn, George Michael, Richard Adams and of course Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, not to mention our beloved Eric Arvin—just to name a few.
The attack on the gay dance club Pulse.
Disasters like wildfires, Hurricane Matthew, the Taiwan, New Zealand and Italy earthquakes (among others). There was Harambe the gorilla being killed in the Cincinnati Zoo. The Disneyworld alligator attack. The Bastille Day terrorist attack in France.
And I don’t like to get political so I won’t mention a certain catastrophic one. None of these things, and many more, can be dismissed. None can be waved away.
But I also know a lot of good happened in 2016 and I would really challenge people to reflect on that. Remember, we see and find what we look for. Waldo was hard to find the first time I did one of his puzzles, but after a few times I could spot him in seconds. If we look to the bad, that is what we will find. And trust me, with that habit we will continue it well into 2017. I’ve seen the dread people are feeling splashed across the Internet!
So, I decided to do a little research. Yes, it was a bad year. But could I find good things as well? Guess what? I found some pretty incredible stuff that happened in 2016. Just look at this list!
After a two decade-long vaccination effort, the World Health Organization declared that measles were eliminated from the Americas. Coffee consumption has been proved to help curtail cancer and suicide rates—how cool is that? Death by heart disease has decreased by 70% in the United States. The world tiger count is up for the first time in 100 years (there are now 3,890 tigers, up from 2010 when there were about 3,200 worldwide). Manatees and pandas are up too! 500 elephants were relocated to a better, safer and a bigger home. According to FX, 455 different scripted shows aired on broadcast, cable and streaming services in 2016—an 8% increase over 2015 and a 137 % increase over 2006—and there are a lot of good shows too (how about Stranger Things, Westworld and the return of Daredevil and Sense8?)! Along with some amazing movies (and blockbusters that were actually good) like Finding Dory, The Jungle Book, Arrival, Deadpool, Captain America: Civil War and Rogue One. Catholic and Orthodox leaders met for first time in 1,000 years. The Anglican church resolved to solemnize same-sex unions the same as opposite-sex unions which required a majority of all three orders of the church (lay, clergy, bishop). The Rabbinical Assembly issued a resolution affirming the rights of transgender and non-conforming individuals. The National Park service turned 100! The world’s largest marine zone, 600,000-square-miles, was established in Antarctica’s Ross Sea—most commercial fishing will be banned in the newly protected zone, with the exclusion of designated research zones, where scientists can catch limited samples of fish and krill. New medicine has been shown to increase melanoma survival rate to 40%, new chemotherapy breakthroughs have increased the 5-year survival for pancreatic cancer from 16% to 27%, there has been massive strides in Alzheimers’ prevention and precision treatments for cancer are hitting clinical trials and working. 70,000 Muslim clerics declared a fatwa against ISIS. Bank firms paid for college tuition for the children of employees who died in the 9/11 attacks. Teen birthrate reached an all-time low in the US and child mortality is down everywhere and it keeps going down. Harriet Tubman, a former slave and African-American abolitionist who helped hundreds of enslaved people escape to freedom on the Underground Railroad, will replace President Andrew Jackson on the front of $20 bills. The US’s unemployment a hit pre-recession low with a jobless rate sank to 4.6 %. The high school graduation rate rose to an all-time high 83% of students earning their diploma. Wow! Now that is working on “leave no child behind!” And there is more. So much more!
In conclusion, I say this: Look for the good. We’ll find it. Love always wins in the end, even when there are setbacks. Believe. Believe in the face of adversity. Believe even when it feels that the facts tell us we’re fools. Because even if there is only the smallest things to be grateful for, focusing on those things will only help us to see more good things. No more talk about how “just when everything is finally coming together, everything falls apart.” Believe! Believe no matter what.
Elizabeth North, publisher of Dreamspiner Press, brought a wonderful idea to my attention. A blessing jar. Every day, or whenever you decide, write down a blessing that has come into your life—something to be grateful for—and place it in a jar. After a year, you might be surprised at just how blessed you are!
And I’ll see you this time next year. I bet our jars are full!
B.G. “Ben” Thomas