If you want to make the world a better place, says Pastor Will Bowen, just quit your whining. “Everybody, across the board, can agree there’s too much kvetching,” Bowen says. So last summer, the 47-year-old clergyman challenged his flock at Christ Church Unity in Kansas City, Mo., to start looking on the brighter side—for 21 days straight. How? He handed out purple plastic bracelets, and each time a person groused or gossiped, he or she had to switch the bracelet to the other wrist, then start the three-week countdown again.
Little did Bowen know he had started a revolution. After The Kansas City Star published an article on the no-gripe pledge, requests for bracelets began pouring in from locales as diverse as Nebraska, Washington and Iraq. To date, the church has shipped more than 125,000 of the bracelets (which are free at acomplaintfreeworld.org, which links to the church).
It hasn’t always been easy. Bowen himself “broke three bracelets” over four months, mostly while dealing with complaints about the church, before hitting the three-week mark. Today, though, 21 church members have done it, including fourth-grade teacher Patricia Platt. “I didn’t realize how often I complained,” says Platt. “It’s so easy to start a conversation by saying, ‘Oh, the weather’s bad.'” Another convert: Tom Alyea, a management consultant who “used to come home from work and launch into a report about the latest headache.” Now, after four months of false starts, Alyea, 45, is gripe-free. “My wife and I have new things to talk about, and my teenage kids don’t run the other way,” he says. “I’m a much happier person.”