There are two more Sundays left in the year, and I am using this one to give thanks. Gratitude, a word that expresses the quality of being thankful and conveys a sense of spiritual appreciation for life, is what I feel as 2019 comes to a finish.

Every family and every business has challenges, which has certainly been true at home and work for me, but life is better when all things taken in balance leave one feeling grateful. Fulfilled people who look beyond their own lives to the larger community live longer, don’t they? They certainly live better.

So, family, friends, coworkers, generous members of our board of directors, readers, members, donors, advertisers, thank you all. I am quite aware as I write this column that just across the highway at the Henry B. Gonzales Convention Center, thousands of less fortunate people are gathered for the H-E-B Feast of Sharing, grateful for a holiday meal served with love.

One of my first bosses, a country club assistant golf pro named Stan who hired me as shop boy when I was 13, used to begin each summer work day by making me listen to him sing in his scratchy, off-key voice, the 1944 Oscar-nominated hit, “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive,” by Johnny Mercer. My attendance was not optional.

Assistant golf pro is pretty low on the economic ladder. Stan used to drive a rusting, rattling Ford Falcon, wear the same clothes every day, and as he ate his daily tuna fish sandwich while watching me clean, polish and repair golf clubs, tell me how much he expected to save over a lifetime by packing his lunch every day. Back then I didn’t see why Stan was brimming with positivity.

“Bobby,” he’d sing, while toying with his old pitching wedge,

“You’ve got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
And latch on to the affirmative
Don’t mess with Mister In-Between
You’ve got to spread joy up to the maximum
Bring gloom down to the minimum
Have faith or pandemonium’s
Liable to walk upon the scene
To illustrate my last remark
Jonah in the whale, Noah in the ark
What did they do just when everything looked so dark?
(Man, they said “We’d better accentuate the positive”)
(“Eliminate the negative”)

There is more, but you get the point. I wanted to turn and run away screaming at the time, but what annoyed me as a teenager now comes back to me with a sense of nostalgia and appreciation. After all, it was in that job that I first met ambitious, successful men – members of the club – who went out of their way to tell me that I, too, could amount to something, someday, if I worked at it. That wasn’t a message I was getting at home. 

The Rivard Report published a story Thursday, Dec. 19, headlined San Antonio Couple Finds Niche on Amazon’s Self-Publishing Platform.

The article by Business Reporter Shari Biediger profiled Reagan and Sada Lewis, a local couple, both Trinity University grads, who started Pretty Simple Press, a digital self-publishing enterprise that apparently has done so well it’s attracted the attention of Amazon executives in Seattle. The Lewis’ leading title is their self-help book, Good Days Start With Gratitude: A 52 Week Guide To Cultivate An Attitude Of Gratitude, which sat in the number 10 spot on Amazon’s Best Seller list in that category last week. In total, the couple has sold 1.2 million books through the e-commerce giant since 2018.

I went online and bought the book for $6.95. If Stan were still alive, I’d send him a copy to let him know I got the message.

Friday was the last work day for many on our team here. Some of us will stay close to home for Christmas and the holidays, but others are traveling to California, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and other cities around the state. As the day came to an end, we celebrated our business team exceeding a $100,000 membership campaign this month. We popped a few corks and cut into an incredible coconut cream cake that a longtime benefactor sends us each year.

The Rivard Report opens its offices for member and community events throughout the year.

Sam Smith crooned carols on the big screen in our conference room, and younger members of our team laughed – perhaps the word is snickered – as I attempted some timely pop cultural references to show how in-touch I still am. One of the pet dogs that visits our offices in St. Paul Square patrolled for crumbs as people shared hugs and plans for the holidays.

I returned to an empty office Saturday and found a card left for me by our development director, who by then was on her way with her fiancée to Southern California.

“You have created an incredible family here at the Rivard Report,” she wrote in gratitude. The only thing she got wrong was the pronoun. “We” have created an incredible team here. I am beyond grateful that at this late juncture in my long career as a journalist I get to work with the talented, passionate people who are the real builders of this nonprofit enterprise.

Thank you, Monika, my wife, for helping start the Rivard Report. It’s taken on a life of its own after eight years of continuous publication. It long ago stopped being something that Monika and I built. It’s team-built, made possible by those of you who read and support the Rivard Report.

So, with gratitude: Merry Christmas. Happy Hanukkah. Happy Kwanzaa. Happy Winter Solstice. Happy holidays. 

Footnote: We achieved our initial financial goal, but we still have a ways to go to reach 2,000 members. Click here to join, or send your check to the Rivard Report, 126 Gonzales St., San Antonio, TX 78205.

Robert Rivard, co-founder of the San Antonio Report who retired in 2022, has been a working journalist for 46 years. He is the host of the bigcitysmalltown podcast.