No resolutions in 2021 but I'm noting down my daily reasons to be cheerful

Close up of handwritten text "I am grateful for..." in foreground with notebook, pen, cup of tea, f

Bishop of Lynn Jonathan Meyrick suggests keeping a diary noting down what you are thankful for each day in 2021 - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Over the years I have always found myself resenting the pressure to make a New Year’s Resolution. Several reasons I suppose; perhaps mostly because I know it will be just a matter of weeks before I need to start thinking about this year’s Lent resolutions. A surfeit of good resolutions never seems exciting! The thought that January will then be littered with broken resolutions all around me is also a factor.

Probably also, I harbour a lingering regret that a feast which is meant to last12 days gets truncated by resolutions relating to cutting down on food and drink. You could call it being Scrooge-like in my response to too vigorous a Scrooge reaction to the post-Christmas blues.

But this year feels different. The idea came from our future son-in-law and ended up being a family-wide resolution: to keep a thankfulness diary. The idea is that towards the end of every day, you spend a few minutes identifying, reflecting on, and then recording five things for which you have felt grateful through the day. It’s a little reminiscent of Ian Dury's song Reasons To Be Cheerful. It also struck me that I can also turn them into a prayer of thankfulness – matching the prayers I make in the morning for specific people about whom I am currently concerned.

They might be small things: a fabulous sunrise or sunset; an unexpected warm smile; a little act of kindness; or big, like a negative Covid test – two of my clergy have recently had those. I was sorry to see clergy omitted from the list of those people this paper was rightly thanking on a front page last week. They put themselves at some personal risk in their regular offering of comfort and encouragement to others.

I have no doubt at all about the moment I had most reason to be thankful to someone: it was late in the evening on Friday, September 13, 2001. It’s a very long story, so I won’t give you the full version of the lead-in. if I tell you at a dinner party (remember those?) it usually takes between 20 and 30 minutes. Truncating it radically, it all began with me stuck in Seattle in the north-west of the United States in the wake of destruction of the Twin Towers in the Tuesday of that week.

You may also want to watch:

I was on my way to the city of Charlestown in South Carolina, down towards the bottom of the east coast, about 3,000 miles away. On the Wednesday evening, I decided that the only way I was going to get there in time to preach in the Cathedral of SS Luke and Paul involved hiring a car. Every other mode of transport seemed to be stopped with no sign of when any of them might open up again.

Budget offered me a Ford pickup truck which I would hand back in Charlestown and off I went, not realising that the distance was anything like that far. Here, it is very difficult imagining how any distance between two points in a single country could possibly be more than a three-day drive. I drove away at 8pm on the Wednesday, thinking I would set myself the goal of getting to the Dean of the Cathedral’s home by 8pm on the Saturday: surely masses of time! I was a couple of hours into the journey before I was able to buy a map of the States which told me my proposed journey was 3,000 miles long – somewhere between 17 and 18 hours driving each day!

Most Read

There were many adventures along the way, but by 8pm on the Friday evening with two thirds of the time gone, I clocked the 2,000th mile: bang on target! I was passing by a small town in Missouri called Higginsville and spotted a sign for a Best Western hotel and thought, I need (and surely deserve) a night in a bed. So I stopped.

Then I discovered, as I tried to check in to one of the remaining free rooms, firstly that I had lost my wallet, and subsequently that the car wouldn’t start again. Stranded with no money or credit cards in a part of the States where I knew no one. The young hotel receptionist (she can’t have been more than 21), had watched me go through a variety of phone calls from her desk to Budget’s emergency helpline and my friend William, the Dean in Charlestown; through numerous dashes to the car to search it repeatedly and to attempt starting it, endlessly and fruitlessly.

Eventually at about 10pm she said: “My shift ends in 10 minutes,” it had begun at 10am, “you say you might have left your wallet back at the gas station you stopped at, 60 miles away? I will drive you there to see if we can find it.”

And that’s just what she did: an hour’s drive there and an hour back after a 12 hour working day. Amazingly, the wallet was there. But even if it hadn’t been, I would remember that generous response of hers to this day. A reason to be cheerful and thankful indeed. And yes, I remembered to send her flowers when I got back home!

Jonathan Meyrick is the Bishop of Lynn

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter