The Gratitude Jar

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Attitude of Gratitude

Sarah Budka Ammerman

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Simple blessings are all around us. Once we receive them with thanksgiving and appreciation, we experience true joy.
~Krystal Kuehn, Giving Thanks

I started the jar the winter after I was told my cancer was in remission. I thought it might be a good way to stay upbeat while I recovered from cancer and navigated my divorce. I used a medium-sized Mason jar and filled it periodically with notes listing the things for which I was grateful.

Years later, the jar has become an important part of my routine. Every year on New Year’s Day, I start with an empty jar and scribble notes on scraps of paper detailing the things I’m grateful for or moments that brought me joy. I empty it the following New Year’s. It’s the perfect way to cultivate gratitude and keep myself focused on positivity.

Some weeks, I don’t add any notes. Other times, I’m tearing paper and adding note after note. Every January when I open the jar it’s like re-reading my diary. Some years, by the time I open the jar my circumstances have drastically changed. I might have written about a nice phone call with a family member, only to have lost them by the time the jar is opened. Those are the notes I keep tucked away in a drawer.

I remember writing a note of gratitude that my friend Alli was able to conceive her son after chemotherapy. A few years later, I attended her funeral, watching her young son place a single pink rose on her casket.

The jars aren’t just filled with happiness and joy. The jars are life: the good and the bad. They remind me of the things I have, as well as the things I’ve lost. They remind me to hold on with both hands to the memories of the people and places I love. They remind me that, even during the darkest winter, there will still be moments worth writing down.

Every January, when I open the jar and smile, I realize that I have forgotten many of the moments that inspired me to add a note months earlier. For a fleeting moment, I get to relive each blip on the radar. The time someone sent me a card unexpectedly; the time I ate at a new restaurant, and it was simply fantastic; the time a friend came to visit me on a sunny day. The jar hasn’t just helped me to cultivate a sense of gratitude. The jar has helped me to notice the seemingly insignificant moments. Through the jar, I am transported to the time when I petted a friend’s new dog or found an empty playground with my daughter.

Honestly, I never really cared much for New Year’s Eve. But now I look forward to it every year. It isn’t just the start of a new calendar year and all that comes with it. It is the chance to reflect on and enjoy all the moments that filled the past twelve months. And every year, when I add that first note, always on New Year’s Day, I realize that one of the things I am most thankful for in my life is an inexpensive Mason jar.

— Sarah Budka Ammerman —

Reprinted by permission of Chicken Soup for the Soul, LLC 2023. In order to protect the rights of the copyright holder, no portion of this publication may be reproduced without prior written consent. All rights reserved.

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