Goodness, a word for our time

Nov 20, 2015 | 4 comments |

My word for 2015 is goodness. As those of you who read my blog regularly know, it’s been a year when goodness has at times been hard for me to find. At other times, though, I’ve been blessed with abundant goodness, a reminder that even in the darkest hours, there’s still hope and things to be thankful for.

In the past few weeks, world events have thrown the idea of “goodness” into sharp focus, and have challenged all of us to find good amidst evil.

In sorting through my late Cousin Mary’s possessions, I found a letter from December 1906 that alludes to “goodness” in a surprisingly modern and topical way.

The letter was sent to Cousin Mary’s mother in a frontier Canadian city, by her uncle in southern California. He offered his “dear niece” congratulations on her upcoming marriage, and expressed regret that he could not attend the wedding.

He then turned to the subject of her fiancé, a great-uncle I never knew. 

“No doubt you are going to marry one of the best young men in the world, but let me give you a little advice. Love him for his faults as well as his virtues. Contentment and happiness will be yours if you always look for the good that is in others.”

The world of 1906 was very different to ours of 2015.

Two world wars and the Great Depression were still in the future. Only three years earlier, the Wright brothers’ “flying machine” had lifted off for the first time. Women in the UK, the United States and Canada had not yet won the right to vote. New fiction included E. Nesbit’s The Railway Children, Puck of Pook’s Hill by Rudyard Kipling, and an essay by Mark Twain, What is Man?, which pondered human nature, destiny and free will.

Yet, looking for, and acknowledging the good in others is as relevant now as it was then, and in a contemporary context the letter writer could not have imagined. In faded ink and spidery handwriting, his words from 109 years ago spoke to me as a poignant message not only for my life, but our time.

Has an unexpected message ever touched you?


  1. Sue Bavin

    What a wonderful story, Jen. How amazing to think of those words reaching out to you across the years – and how very apt. You have had such ups and downs this year and it is good to know that you have kept your special word in the forefront of your mind. You really did choose the perfect word to inspire you through the year. Wishing you all the best, as always xx

    • Jen Gilroy

      Thank you, Sue. Holding on to my word for this year has indeed helped me through some very challenging times. I’ve now started to reflect on what my word for 2016 might be. Will likely blog about it in January!

  2. Heidi Vanstone

    “Always have an attitude of gratitude.” Those are words one of my youth group leaders shared with us over 25 years ago, but they are still fresh and relevant for me today.

    As I learn more and more about a sad and challenging extended family situation, I am motivated to seek out the good in my own nuclear family. Oh sure, I will likely still gripe about my son’s dirty socks stuffed under the sofa, but at the end of the day…I am grateful. Grateful that I am a mother…grateful that we have a washing machine…grateful that my children are still living at home…grateful that we are blessed with sufficient clothes…and the list could go on.

    • Jen Gilroy

      What a wonderful attitude, Heidi. As someone who also finds English Rose’s dirty socks (and other items) stuffed under the sofa, under her bed, etc. it’s a timely reminder to seek out the immediate good. And not to ‘sweat the small stuff’!


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