COLUMN: Good things come in fives

This is my Sunday column for the Jan. 22, 2012 edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune. A shorter version of this aired Jan. 21 during “Between You and Me” on 91.7 KAXE.

Good things come in fives
By Aaron J. Brown

We creatures use modern minds to operate machines, systems and philosophies that would once have been considered possible only through black magic. I drove a car to work, a job in which I teach communication classes to people who hold powerful tiny computers in their hands, each capable of communicating with people in every corner of the world on a whim. These devices also allow you to play Angry Birds (but not in class, OK? Now is not the time).

The problem with complex thinking is that it makes you think you have complex problems. If you spend too much time thinking you’re sure to find plenty wrong with yourself and the people and circumstances around you. Sometimes our expectations in life – from relationships, career and family – seem to lead to nothing but disappointment.

One new website called “5 Things” ( by Sarah MacRostie, a northern Minnesota artisan mom, seeks to cut through the haze of negativity. The “5 Things” Facebook site ( allows people to post five things that make them feel grateful at any time. Seeing all the gratitude piled up on “5 Things” is heartwarming enough, but sometimes the simple act of asking yourself what you’re grateful about can reshape your whole way of thinking.

I can point to a lot of big things that I am thankful for. First, there is my wife and three boys (not sure if that counts as one, or four). The boys are legally required to live with me, but Christina isn’t. That means something. A day or week or year of dreary routine and little setbacks is made bright with the love of another person. I’ve got someone, and we’ve crafted a family both unique and exciting.

My son George is telling me a train story as I write this. The tracks spiral around the family room, trains running full steam and on time. Doug just called out “Dad, I have a secret.” I asked what it was. “I love you. I say it nice and loud.” Then he threw a stuffed angry bird at a cardboard facsimile of a pig fortress. Henry and I discussed a ramp for his racetrack earlier.

This is a normal day, but also special.

Above my head stands a sturdy roof. Out my window tall trees obscure the view of a lake that is too small for anyone else to fuss over, but big enough for eagles, fish and fowl. Today the lake is an arena floor, a playground and pathway to the unknown, virgin forest on the distant horizon. This summer the ice will melt, lapping up against ancient rocks that the boys have named.

We’ve got some football on the television today. While a public radio supporter like myself is supposed to find the NFL meaningless and cliché, Sunday afternoon football provides great comfort, dull bleating mixed with high drama – good whether you’re sitting on the edge of your seat or napping. Perhaps it doesn’t matter which.

I’ve got enough food to eat, evidenced by my belt as it strains like the moorings of a mighty ship in harbor. The coffee is on, hot and strong. Santa brought me a container of creamer this year that has yet to run out.

My iPod is stocked with bluegrass music. The dinner is ready. My life, for this fleeting moment, seems to be focused and controlled. Perhaps this always was the case, or could have been, but gratitude is the light by which it becomes apparent today.

I don’t know if that was five things, or a hundred. I think the lesson in “5 things” is that by the time you get to five, you no longer need to bother counting.

Aaron J. Brown is a northern Minnesota writer and communication instructor at Hibbing Community College. He is author of the blog and host of the KAXE’s Great Northern Radio Show.

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