In the previous two blogs, we explored the theory and practice of recognizing goodness. Now, in this third and final look at the topic, I’ll tell you about an activity that we enjoy in our family. It’s an activity that helps us to recognize goodness. You might like to give it a go, yourself.
Our family does try to sit down together for dinner each evening, but I confess that, often, outside forces defeat our good intentions. You may recall the traditional American families in classic, 1950s TV shows like Leave It To Beaver. Few of those idyllic, all-present family dinners could’ve been filmed on location under our roof.
Fortunately, though, we do get together on Friday evenings for the Sabbath meal. During those get-togethers around our table, we participate in an activity that we call, “Best of the Week.”
Each week, after the feasting and after the joking and disagreements have died down, typically someone inquires, "Isn’t it time for Best of the Week?" After the standard groan, we proceed around the table, encouraging each person to think of something good that’s happened for them during the past seven days and to share their experience.
Our Best of the Week comes in as many shapes and sizes as we have people around our table. Someone might talk about the big promotion that came through at work, or a stellar report card, or perhaps the thrill of purchasing new shoes. Another might describe an act of kindness that they performed or received. Whenever somebody gets stuck for a topic, they can fall back on a default expression of gratitude for the opportunity simply to sit around the table and listen to others.
The benefits of our Best of the Week activity are readily apparent. The exercise requires that we listen to each other. It inspires us to look within ourselves to find happiness for someone else’s good fortune. And it necessitates articulating the good that we, ourselves, encounter. Our Best of the Week activity leads each of us to practice precisely what we’ve been discussing here, to recognize goodness.
What’s more, our Best of the Week activity, I can tell you, alters the ways in which I experience each week. When I know that I''ll be obliged to come up with my “best of" on Friday night, I pay attention. I try to keep my eyes and ears open to collect the morsels of good. And I think about fine tuning the one storyline that most resonates for me. For example, this week around our table, maybe I''ll talk about my mom having brought cupcakes to her art class yesterday so that others could enjoy her birthday. The idea of a dozen classmates in their 80''s celebrating in this way just does it for me!
Sometimes, when my wife and I are invited out by friends on Friday night, we glance at each other secretly to decide whether their might be an opening to share our custom with the hosts. We often do, and I''m happy to report that, so far, we’ve always been invited back. On the other hand, when guests come to us, they really have no choice but to participate in our family’s Best of the Week ritual.
I learned recently that the Obamas practice a similar activity in the White House. They call it, apparently, "Roses and Thorns.” Everyone takes a turn describing not only a good experience--their rose--but also a negative development--a “thorn.” In our house, we’ve chosen to concentrate on articulating the positive, but exploring its reverse may also have merit. One week, a young man whom we hadn''t seen for seven years joined us. He bluntly stated "My week was pretty crappy. I literally didn''t do anything." Although no one asked him to elaborate, we all sat quietly for a moment, empathizing and thinking of times in our own lives when things hadn’t worked out. Be they roses or thorns, the commonality of life’s experiences can comfort us.
While writing this week’s blog, I asked my family members to share their thoughts about our Best of the Week activity. While some said that participation can be a bit uncomfortable, even competitive at times, all reported that they like the idea of taking a pause on Friday nights to recognize goodness. It will be interesting to see how many of the children in our family adopt the custom when they set up their own households.
Whether with a group of family or friends or within your own thought, I urge you to try our Best of the Week activity, yourself. If you don''t practice our Friday Sabbath ritual, there may be another recurring event that consistently draws your family together. If not, perhaps you can create one. At the start, being candid or even coming up with your own “best of” may present a little challenge, but exercise typically challenges muscles not frequently used We might all benefit, I think, from exercising our facilities for recognizing goodness.