Dear Annie: I recently had to go to a big-box store to purchase something that I couldn't get online. The checkout lines on the grocery side of the store were six people deep, but if you looked beyond, to the other side of the store, there were no lines. I've been trying to teach family and friends this lesson — to look beyond themselves — for some time.

Every Christmas, I get invited to a gathering so I won't have to be alone. While I try to converse with guests, since I don't have kids or grandkids to talk about, I wind up alone at the party anyway. No one wants to talk about books or world events.

Counselors tell me to volunteer or get involved in groups. When I moved back to the town I grew up in and tried to get involved, I was told, "You're not from here; that's not how we do things." After 25 years, I am still not welcome. Their social groups were formed long ago, and new members are not welcome. They can't see beyond.

Everyone has been writing gratitude journals all year — things they are thankful for, such as children, grandchildren, work and health. It's hard to listen to what they are thankful for, as I have health issues, which makes it hard for me to get out, and I am alone most of the time. They are so focused on things they are going through or thankful for that they don't see beyond. They don't see what others go through every day. Look beyond your world. What are others going through?

There is a second part of gratitude, which is to show gratitude to others. For 2021, thank others. Get away from social media, and make this the year you send that handwritten note or phone call to thank someone, even if it is for something that person helped you with years ago. Don't include statements about you. Make it only about the other person's act of kindness. If needed, rewrite it so that only a positive statement is left.

Look beyond the closest checkout line. Look beyond yourself. Others will appreciate it.

Finally, Annie, I want to thank you for including the words "I am sorry for what you are going through" in a lot of your responses. Being able to express that is a genuine trait few possess. — Wishing for True Friends

Dear Wishing for True Friends: You make a good point about "looking beyond," but please, don't be so hard on yourself or others. Seeing counselors helps enormously. Try not to take it all so seriously. Make a special effort to reach out and offer friendship to new people. You might find, similar to your observation at the big-box store, a faster lane to health and happiness.

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