The wisdom of the jars
Aug. 13, 2012
by Ivan Raconteur

According to a post I read on Facebook recently, a simple jar and some scrap paper can help us realize how fortunate we are.

The post suggested that one should get an empty jar, and every time something good happens to one, one should write it down on a piece of paper, and put it in the jar.

The post suggested starting this on New Year’s Day, and then opening the jar at the end of the year and reading all of the good things that have happened to one in the past year.

That sounds like a good idea, although one wouldn’t have to wait until Jan. 1 to start.

A system like this, although simple, could provide valuable perspective. We often get caught up in the present, and we forget about the progress we make along our journey through life.

I suspect many people would be surprised if they tried this little experiment.

We focus on the big things, but it is really the small things that make a difference in our lives.

We could fill our jars with examples of good fortune that we experience, such as finding a couple of dollars in the pocket of a jacket we haven’t worn for awhile, or somebody giving us something they aren’t using anymore that is just what we needed. We could even include things like finding a parking space with time left on the meter.

The jar could also include notes about all of the little kindnesses people show us. Seeing them all written down could help us understand how blessed we are.

I think we could expand the system, and instead of just one jar, we could have a few jars going at once.

We could find another jar, and call it our learning jar. We could write down all the new things we learn each day throughout the year, and then go back and read about all we have learned in the past 12 months.

I’m afraid some people might have jars that are nearly empty at the end of the year. These are the people who are not receptive to new ideas and have the erroneous belief that they already know everything, and therefore won’t accept new information.

Most of us, however, are constantly learning, whether we like it or not. I learn new things every day, and, I marvel at how much I still don’t know.

One way to be sure we never stop learning is to surround ourselves with bright people. I am fortunate to be surrounded by people who are a lot smarter than I am (some say that isn’t very difficult) and I am constantly picking up little kernels of knowledge.

Some of these are people with whom it is my privilege to work. Others keep in touch online. Some are people I meet in the course of my daily activities. I learn from all of them, and I always keep my ears open waiting to soak up their wisdom.

I am sure that if I wrote down all the things I learn each day, and stuff the little notes into a jar, the jar will be jammed by the end of the year. This might also help me remember all of the things I have learned, which seems to become more of a challenge with each passing year.

Once we get the learning jar squared away, we could find another jar, and use it to keep track of all of our accomplishments.

We tend to evaluate ourselves and others based on the big things such as getting a new job or a promotion, buying a house or a new car, or earning a degree.

We accomplish a lot of smaller goals, too. Perhaps if we were to write these down, and take some time at the end of the year to read them, we would realize that we have done more than we thought we had.

All kinds of things would fit in this category. Maybe we lost some weight. Perhaps we stuck to our workout schedule for a period of time. Maybe we took a class, or even finished a book we had been wanting to read.

Our goals might be as basic as wanting to spend more time with our families, and we could record the things we did to accomplish that, such as taking a trip or visiting the zoo.

Maybe our goal is to travel more. We could write down all the new places we visit during the year, and stuff those in the jar.

The jar system could be used in other ways, too. For example, one could write down all the things one’s spouse or other family members do for one throughout the year. That could be a little risky, but I suspect in most cases it would turn out alright.

The jar system is a very low-tech way to keep track of the small things that make up the fabric of our lives. At the end of the year, it could provide an opportunity for us to count our blessings in a very tangible way.

For me, it would be easy to do, since I always carry a note pad and a pen with me anyway. My pockets are stuffed with notes about story ideas or questions for further research.

I think I’ll go out and find some jars and get started with my jar experiment today.

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