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The Farm Bleat: On a quest to find gratitude

... the gratitude jar is about forcing us to not dwell on the bad. There’s bad news, bad people, bad experiences, bad days that we all encounter. The challenge is to not let the bad news consume us ...

Julie Buntjer
Julie Buntjer
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I don’t recall the name of the book, or even the author, but at some point during the height of the pandemic, I was listening to an audiobook in which the main character kept a gratitude jar.

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A unique idea, I thought at the time, but in the midst of reporting on area deaths caused by a yet-untreatable virus, I didn’t think I could find something to be grateful for each day, much less write it down and tuck it inside a jar.

I fleetingly thought of the idea again at the start of 2022, but five months into my new role as editor of The Globe, I struggled to balance special projects, constant deadlines and the stress of ensuring a quality product reached our readers twice each week. I didn’t have the time or the energy to jot down a daily moment of gratitude to tuck inside a jar.

Excuses — that’s what they are.

Sunday evening, as I watched our Nobles County 4-H members share memories in a tribute to Molly Clarke, a 4-H’er lost in a tragic crash in September, I listened as one by one, kids and adults talked about Molly’s smile, the fun they shared in a car ride to the Minnesota State Fair in August, the memories of Molly making the walk to the 4-H Hilton (practically the farthest point away from the swine barn on the state fairgrounds) seem shorter than it really was.

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Yes, there was sadness expressed in the loss of Molly, but there was so much gratitude spoken of the short time she was here — in the all-too-brief years she graced the 4-H program.

I remembered Molly as the petite blonde who showed white Saanen goats early in her 4-H days. While I don’t always remember names and faces, I never forgot Molly’s — we shared a common bond over goats, even if it was just me who thought it was cool.

I was vacationing on Minnesota’s North Shore when I received news of Molly’s crash. It cast a somber mood on the trip, and I wonder now if I’d been able to come up with feelings of gratitude — even though I was surrounded by the beauty of Lake Superior, changing leaves and the bubbling water fountain at the peaceful inn.

I guess the gratitude jar is about forcing us to not dwell on the bad. There’s bad news, bad people, bad experiences, bad days that we all encounter. The challenge is to not let the bad news consume us, but to find something — even if it’s as simple as someone giving you a smile — to know there are so many things we can be grateful for each day.

No, I haven’t started a gratitude jar yet, but the 4-H’ers who shared their messages Sunday night proved there are so many reasons to be grateful every day — and even during times of loss.

With Thanksgiving approaching, it’s up to us to set the mood. We can be grateful for what we have and what we’ve been given, or we can choose the alternative.

Four years ago — just days before Thanksgiving — I lost my dad. What would that first year after his death have been like if I’d had a gratitude jar, if I’d forced myself to be thankful for something each and every day? I would have searched for things to be grateful for, and perhaps I would have found a bit more joy in that journey of grief.

I don’t know when it’s a good time to start a gratitude jar, but there’s a saying that comes to mind: “There’s no time like the present.”

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Dear readers, here’s wishing you a heart filled with peace and hope, and a tummy filled with all things good this Thanksgiving.

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Opinion by Julie Buntjer
Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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