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Ways to celebrate what’s good in the people around us

Neighbors talking across fence

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Cecilia Pigg - published on 04/30/24

How we see the world around us depends on our state of mind. Here are ways to cultivate an awareness of the goodness of the people in our lives.

Look away from your screen for a minute and look out the closest window. What do you see? I can see a bag of yard waste outside from my perch on the couch, and there is a bundle of sticks poking out, beautifully arranged — like a spindly, whimsical bouquet. If I look inside my house, I see a three-year-old with a runny nose and a smudge of dirt on his chin, who is gently singing the same phrase over and over again.

The toddler’s eyes are sparkling as he practices artistry in language and song. If I listen, I can hear the love of my life animatedly chatting with the plumber over the phone while the baby contentedly naps in the next room.

However, if I were in a different state of mind, I might notice with frustration the bag of yard waste cluttering up our front porch. I might bemoan the constant messiness of my son’s face, and hiss at him to “please stop singing that same line over and over.” And I might wring my hands at my husband’s loud voice and passive-aggressively text him:

"Just a reminder" message text box

Of course, I wouldn’t acknowledge the fact that he is trying to keep our home in good working order, and that if the baby wakes up, it is not the end of the world.

Discovering the beauty everywhere

Beauty and good exist everywhere and in everyone. And when you find that beauty and bring it to the forefront of your mind, it transforms your day, your mood, and your experience of life. This has proven true over and over again in my life. When I am actively aware of the good my husband does, it transforms our marriage for the better. By seeking out and affirming the goodness in my children, my relationship with them is strengthened (and it often transforms their behavior for the better). When I celebrate the beauty in my friends, neighbors, acquaintances, and strangers, it fills the monotony of daily life with light.

Making a habit of seeing the good in people (and in what they are trying to do) helps so much in a world driven by cancel culture.

With that in mind, here are some practical ideas for how to harness the life-changing power of celebrating the good in people.

In your neighborhood

Bring an elderly neighbor something on their birthday, maybe a card, a cake or a balloon.

Stop to tell someone how beautiful their garden is.

Go out of your way to greet your neighbor and the dog she is walking.

Attend the parades or festivals in your town.

In your parish

Notice when your pastor is trying to do something good for the parish and support it.

Greet a new parishioner every week or say hello to an old parishioner you haven’t met yet.

Thank the altar servers, lectors, musicians, or priest after Mass.

Volunteer to help with a big parish event and introduce yourself to folks you haven’t met before.

In conversation

When talking to someone you just met, you can learn about the beauty they see by asking questions: What are the best things about this town? What are a few things you love about your job? About your husband/kids? About the movie we just watched?

In your family/friendships

Start a habit of sharing your favorite part of your day with someone in your life and listening to theirs.

Praise one specific action or quality about the people you love when you see them.

Write a thank-you note to a friend remembering a time that you particularly appreciated their friendship.

In prayer

Every moment that you notice goodness and beauty can be a moment of prayer. Thank God, the source of goodness and beauty, for what you see. Often, the way God speaks to us is through the goodness of others, so the more we are aware of goodness/beauty, the more we can hear His voice.

I’ll leave you with this beautiful quote from Herman Melville, which comes from chapter 26 of Moby Dick:

Man, in the ideal, is so noble and so sparkling, such a grand and glowing creature, that over any ignominious blemish in him all his fellows should run to throw their costliest robes.”

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