Gratitude

When you are driving from Elba to Dothan, you come across a town named Enterprise. Enterprise, a town in Alabama, was established in 1896, and quickly became major player in agriculture, specifically cotton. Cotton became the livelihood of everyone in the area. Whether you owned the fields, harvested the fields, or opened up a local restaurant to serve all the people that came to town, cotton was the sole driver of the economy. Business was great and life was good. Until, the Boll Weevil came to town.

In 1909, a nasty pest came to nearby Mobile, Alabama: the Boll Weevil. By 1915, it made its way to Enterprise and single handedly began to dismember the cotton production, and with it, the livelihoods of everyone in Enterprise. The problem with the Boll Weevil is that in a single season of mating, a pair of Boll Weevil can produce 2 million offspring. So, it compounds. Quickly. Cotton production plummeted, jobs were lost, and people were forced to leave town. This once great success story became a casualty of an uncontrollable externality.

Today, in downtown Enterprise, there is a statue erected of the Boll Weevil. Why would they have a statue of the pest that destroyed the town? On the plaque in front of the statue, you will find the words:

In profound appreciation of the Boll Weevil and what it has done as the Herald of Prosperity this monument was erected by the citizens of Enterprise, Coffee County, Alabama.

The citizens of Enterprise saw the destruction of the Boll Weevil as an opporutnity. An opporutnity to diversify and reinvent their town. They moved aggressively into peanut farming and other crops. By 1917, they were producing 1 million bushels of peanuts and had rebuilt the economy around a new type of agriculture. They did not do this out of desire, but rather out of opportunity and need. This is gratitude, in a less talked about form.

In this season of gratitude, we often think about the people, blessings, and gifts that have had a positive impact on us. But, we can also have gratitude for our challenges and suffering, as they present an opportunity (even if it is hidden at first). Gratitude can also be about rejoicing in suffering, as it nurtures perseverance and creativity.

The people of Enterprise Alabama, and their statue, serve as a reminder of the power of gratitude. And, to this day, they have the only statue in the world dedicated to a pest.

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Rob Thomas

Author of ‘The AI Ladder’, ‘The End of Tech Companies’ & ‘Big Data Revolution’ amzn.to/2uVu84R.