ARLINGTON, Va. (CNS) — A little bird says gratitude is making a comeback.
With Thanksgiving in November, the days of the month are popular ones for calling to mind all for which we are grateful. And now, thanks to social media, those thankful thoughts can be read, commented on and shared by family, friends and, yes, even total strangers.
On Facebook, there’s the 30 Days of Gratitude Project (30daysofgratitude.org), started by Annie Zirkel, author of “You’ll Thank Me Later,” and supported by international gratitude speaker and trainer Paul Taubman, a blogger at allaboutgratitude.com. It began Nov. 1.
Until Nov. 30, a Facebook user posts daily one thing for which he or she is grateful. It can be for husbands or for wives. For veterans or voting. For a stranger who lets you and your toddler ahead of him in line.
It could be for favorite burger joints or for weekends or for piles of leaves in the fall. For the sun, for the birds or for just another day.
The posts usually start as part of a trickle-down effect, as one friend inspires another to jump on board. That’s what happened for Christi Landauer, a parishioner of St. Philip Church in Falls Church.
“It was really inspiring seeing everyone being thankful for something every day,” she told the Arlington Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Arlington Diocese. And focusing on gratitude was a good antidote to the negativity she’d seen online following the Nov. 6 election.
“Social media is supposed to update family and friends about where your heart’s at, and I wanted it to be this,” Landauer said. “I wanted it to be my gratitude.”
And then there’s Twitter.
The social media stream used by many Catholic bloggers was the perfect setting for Matt Swaim, producer of the Eternal Word Television Network’s “Son Rise Morning Show” in Cincinnati to share his daily prayer of gratitude with the world.
He said he did this after spending too much time posting one negative tweet after another — especially first thing in the morning.
“I thought, ‘You know, what if I tithed that first tweet of the morning and made it a tweet of gratitude?'” he said.
Inspired by Opus Dei founder St. Josemaria Escriva’s concept of the “heroic minute” — how you should start your day by setting the tone in which you want to live it — and by St. Therese of Lisieux’s “little way” — in which everything is grace — Swaim began documenting his moments of gratitude.
Using the hashtag #gratefultweet, he’s been thankful for pro-life friends, leftover gummy Lifesavers, guardian angels, for the last day of campaign ads and for the recent opening of a nearby Waffle House.
“It can be as simple as possible or as profound as possible,” he said. “That’s the great thing about it.”
On Thanksgiving Day, Swaim planned to post his 425th #gratefultweet. His consistent example of positivity and gratitude has rubbed off on others.
Lisa Hendey, founder of catholicmom.com, and a follower of Swaim on Twitter, as well as his friend, said she watched Swaim begin his grateful tweets last fall. A couple of weeks later, she decided to join in — and her moment of gratitude has dramatically altered how she goes about her day.
After morning prayer, “the first thing I try to do is put out my gratitude tweet,” she said. “The reminder to start every day in a posture of gratitude … has fundamentally changed the way I do my social media now.”
Grateful tweeting has caught on beyond Catholic circles — offering the opportunity for evangelization and for building bridges between Catholics and people of other or no faith, Hendey said.
And, Swaim said, modeling gratitude and positivity is what Catholics should be doing.
“As Catholics, we will never convert the culture with negativity,” Swaim said. “If people see Catholics as complainers, as whiners, as grumps, especially first thing in the morning, it wouldn’t make anybody want to be Catholic.”
But, Hendey said, the key is to remember to be grateful year-round — not only when gathered around a large table with friends and family.
“When it gets rough is on a Monday morning in the middle of July, or at the end of a busy workweek,” she added, “that’s when being in the habit of taking time to prayerfully give thanks is such a blessing.”
Crowe is senior staff writer at the Arlington Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Diocese of Arlington, Va.