Carl Mays: “Good Riddance Day” is a good idea

Jan. 09, 2014 @ 11:50 PM

In the celebration and observance of Christmas followed by the flurry of activities that paced the entry into 2014, you may have missed Good Riddance Day. I did. Just yesterday I got around to seeing something about it. I really can’t remember if I’ve noticed it in years past, but I do know now that the Seventh Annual Good Riddance Day was observed in New York City on Dec. 28.

Participants at the event shared their “good riddance” stories with the crowd gathered in Times Square. To help participants get rid of evidences of the bad memories, a secure mobile shredding truck, sledge hammer, rubber mallet and dumpster were on hand to destroy and discard any distasteful, embarrassing or downright depressing memories from 2013. Participants destroyed their written accounts, pink slips, traffic tickets, credit cards, electronic devices and other evidences of negative happenings. They said they wanted to put it behind them and move on into the new year and new opportunities.

The event, along with the recent weather we have been experiencing, made me think of Dr. Norman Vincent Peale. In previous columns I have mentioned that Dr. Peale, who passed away on Christmas Eve 1993, was one of my early mentors, and he holds a special place in my heart and mind. His wife Ruth was a great partner and carried on the work the two of them had shared until she passed away in February 2008. Short in stature, she was huge in actions. Having heard her speak, I also know she was dynamic on the platform.

Dr. Peale told of the time Ruth was invited to speak at a convention in North Dakota, where farmers were having a rough go of things. A tremendous number of these famers came from hundreds of miles to hear this small lady with huge inspiration. At a luncheon preceding her talk, Ruth was sitting across from an older, rugged, deeply tanned and wrinkled farmer with large gnarled hands. Ruth said he was shy, but had a look of serenity about him. Hoping to develop some line of communication, she asked, “Sir, how are the crops this year?” The man answered, “Well Ma’am, we ain’t got no crops this year.” Ruth responded, “You have no crops?”

“No, Ma’am,” the farmer told her. “You see, what happened was there was a dust storm that destroyed 70 percent of my crops. Then, after the dust storm we had a plague of grasshoppers and the grasshoppers ate up all the rest. So, we ain’t got no crops this year.”

Dr. Peale said Ruth was really taken back by the farmer’s plight. She said, “Isn’t that terrible! What are you going to do about it?”

The farmer just looked at her and responded, “Do? Ma’am, I’m not going to do anything – except I aim to forget it and move on. Through the grace of God, I put it all behind me. I’ve been farming out here for nigh onto 40 years. And when you deal with the elements, with the earth and with the storm and with the sky and with the rain and with the snow, you learn to take things as they come. You can’t destroy your peace of mind by saying 'if' – if it hadn’t happened, if the dust storm hadn’t come, if the grasshoppers hadn’t come – if – if – if. I just aim to forget it and move on.”

Dr. Peale said Ruth got a lot of material that day – and so did he. He also said the man might be considered to be just a simple farmer by some people, but he has a message and a faith that should be shared with many. It is a message that proclaims, “Rather than thinking ‘if,’ think ‘how?’ – how do I accept this, learn from it, build on it and move forward?” Does the farmer also have a good message for you? He certainly does for me.    

© 2014 by Carl Mays, National Speakers Association Hall of Fame member and author of over a dozen books. E-mail or view