Tell me something good

Published 3:07 am Monday, October 2, 2017

I was recently invited to speak at one of Washington’s book clubs about what the Washington Harbor District Alliance is up to, the status of some projects downtown and anything generally keeping this vibrant group of talented and educated women informed.

When I’m asked to speak to a group, I query the leader about some specific things the audience wants to hear. In response, the club host, Lydie Jennings, said, “That’s easy. Just ‘Tell Me Something Good.’” That’s this year’s theme of the Reviewer’s Book Club, and it’s a darn good one. Suddenly I was transported to any given conversation with my grandmother (or MeMa we called her), wherein she always used that phrase when we first saw or talked to each other. She was old, and I suppose only wanted to take up her time and thoughts with positive thoughts and memories.

However, the effort to tell someone something good isn’t easy for everyone. Many people, including myself, have to consciously put an effort into refocusing their senses and thoughts to detect the good and not the bad — a filter of sorts, but for thoughts.

It always starts with the “little things.” Things that were good about this most recent week and our lives but for whatever reason, they didn’t seem significant enough to warrant recognition. But in fact, it is those “little things” in our lives that truly shape our lives. So I decided to make a list.


In no specific order, here are some things on my personal list of goodness at the moment:

  • Being in love
  • The ability to buy $30 of fresh fruit at the weekly Farmers & Artisans Market
  • The ability to buy any food at all that has helped me gain weight (I’m storing up for the winter)
  • Having the luxury of being geographically close enough to my mama to wait outside the operating room during her recent operation
  • Having medical facilities in the region that offer excellent care
  • Having a mama
  • Walking every morning with one of my best friends along Washington’s gorgeous waterfront
  • Saying “hi” to everyone we see along the way on that walk
  • Living in a state within the continental U.S. not devastated by a recent natural disaster


Many people regularly practice this exercise, sometimes daily, but it’s in the form of a “gratitude list,” or a “prayer list.”

I perform another exercise from time to time to clear my head and gain perspective on our downtown Harbor District.

All I have to do is leave the house and inevitably someone will say: “I wish these empty storefronts could be fixed up; why don’t we have more parking?; it’s a shame someone doesn’t do something about ‘that’ (whatever ‘that’ is);” and more. So, my solution is to stand at the corner of Gladden and W. Main streets and look down the street. I naturally want to focus on the bad, the things that are wrong and need fixing, the things people complain about. Then I close my eyes. I tell myself that when I open my eyes again I am going to try and actively refocus my senses on the things that are “good:” the new businesses that have popped up, the shop owners putting their wares out for the day to attract customers, the recent signs installed to welcome visitors; the building under construction or the “SOLD” signs indicating new life is ahead of us. Suddenly I am reminded of all the progress that has been made in such a brief period of time, and that big things are happening in “Little” Washington.

Of course, the reality is not everything is sunshine and roses. And there are many things that are not good and that need to be addressed. Trust me, I can create a list of those, too. But what happens when I only think about the bad and not the good is my short-term memory easily forgets all of the great things that have happened. Does this happen to you?

Just imagine what the “Sound Off” section would be like if people called to offer praise to a local project or leader instead of criticism, or a compliment to a neighbor who recently put some hard work into their yard, or a “thank you” to a random person who was observed doing something nice for someone else that otherwise may have gone unnoticed.

Making that list was a helpful reminder that there are good things, both big and little, happening around us constantly. It’s just important to be more conscious of these things or they may go by you, unnoticed and underappreciated. Lydie was right. It was easy to talk about something good because there is so much good around us happening in our city and in the Harbor District.

John Butler is chief operations officer of WHDA and co-owner of Elmwood 1820 Bed & Breakfast Inn and the Belle of Washington.