Last year after Thanksgiving and through December, I tried to pass on my positivity as much as possible. I made a concerted effort to compliment others, smile and do everything with enthusiasm. In the end, I benefited more than anyone from my experiment. It was easy to stand out as a positive force in such a depraved place. This time last year, I was incarcerated in the Utah State Prison.

It would be easy to list the many things in my life that would be considered an improvement. My freedom and relationship with my family would probably head that list, but the thing I am most thankful for is something I had last year at this time as well. I do think I appreciate it even more now, though. It’s my attitude.

I remember being a little worried that I might lose this perspective after being in the free world for some time, but I can confidently say I have not. Sure, there are simple things I take for granted now, like good food, but not the important things.

I wake up happy every morning. My dad reminds me that I’ve had some good breaks recently, and while he’s not wrong, I know I would wake up happy with or without them. I did it in prison and I plan to do it for the rest of my life.

I’m thankful for my prison experience, but there’s one person who in no small way guided and directed that experience through his example of kindness and love. For those of you who don’t know all the details of my story, a man I only knew by name (Nolan Taylor) came to visit me when I was in the Davis County Jail, before I went to prison. After a couple of visits he committed to visit me regularly for the entirety of my incarceration — no matter how long that was going to be. So for four years, he visited me every two weeks without fail, and all he asked for in return was my complete honesty, which he received.

Numerous people have said they are, “Sorry you had to go through that.” To which I will clarify, “You mean, sorry for what I put myself through?” And when they concede the point, I will say, “I’m not sorry.” And I mean it. I am thankful for my experience and the perspective it brought me. I don’t see that ever going away. I really doubt I would be able to say any of that had Nolan not felt moved to perform such a selfless act.

I know Nolan isn’t comfortable with receiving this praise, but giving credit is the reason I sit here and boast about being happy. Also, I want to point out that being grateful isn’t so much about what we have, but about our attitude. Freedom ranks pretty high on my list of things I’m grateful for today. And even though freedom wasn’t on my list last year, that doesn’t mean it was a shorter list.

We should all be thankful for people like Nolan, and the best way for me to show my appreciation is to become more like him. I feel my experiment last year was a step in the right direction. I’ve tried to mentor some others in need, and in one case in particular, I have experienced some disappointment. But at the end of the day, I believe I am making a positive difference with my endeavors.

I know it’s not realistic, but if we had a Nolan for every prisoner, I’m convinced the system would benefit everyone, because prisoners would enter back into society better people. Heck, in a situation like that, you could even call it something like the “Department of Corrections.”

Brian Wood, of Layton, pleaded guilty to nine felony charges for offenses from 2011 to 2014, including counts of burglary, drug possession and prescription fraud. He served four years in the Utah State prison system before being released on parole on Jan. 2, 2018.

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