"Thankfulness is being grateful for what you have. It is an attitude of gratitude for learning, loving, and being. It is appreciating the little things which happen around you and within you every day. It is having a sense of wonder about the beauty of this world. It is being aware of the gifts in your life."
-From The Virtues Project Educator's Guide by Linda Kavelin Popov.
Tomorrow we celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States. As we sit down to the table on Thanksgiving Day, we express our gratitude for the blessings in our lives, for our family and friends, but how do we make gratitude part of our everyday life? Gratitude is a practice, and just like anything worth doing, it takes practice. Gratitude is also an attitude. Studies have shown that people who cultivate gratitude may actually undo the effects of negative emotions such as anger and anxiety.
One of the best ways we can show gratitude is to share our gifts with others. We have seen an outpouring of generosity after the natural disasters around the world this past year. In Wainwright, Alberta, Canada, Virtues Project facilitator Jodi Williams organized her community to help the Hurricane Katrina survivors in Louisiana. Jodi had heard from Virtues Project facilitator Debbie Briant that her community of Lafayette, Louisiana, while not directly hit by the hurricane, had an instant influx of 40,000 people to their community of 100,000. A tractor-trailer truck, filled with food, school supplies, clothes, and necessities collected and donated by community members of Wainwright made the long trek to Louisiana. Gratitude was such a part of this effort-the recipients, of course, were grateful for all of the help they received; the donors were reminded of their blessings and their ability to give and serve others. The rest of us are grateful to see others in action, expressing the love and service that we aren't always able to do directly. We see the effect that two people can have on inspiring whole communities to action.
Questions for reflection:
- What are the things in my life I am most grateful for?
- How would I like to practice gratitude on an everyday basis?
- How have negative emotions like anger and anxiety dissipated when I am practicing gratitude?
- When have I had a sense of wonder about the beauty of this world?
More resources on Gratitude:
- The Virtues Project Educator's Guide, Linda Kavelin Popov; Jalmar Press; 2000. www.virtuesproject.com
- How Kids Learn Gratitude, Jean G. Fitzpatrick; http//www.beliefnet.com/story/51/story_5119.html
- A Pace of Grace: The Virtues of a Sustainable Life, Linda Kavelin Popov, p. 118-119; Plume; 2004. www.paceofgrace.net
- Heart of Gratefulness, Brother David Steindl-Rast; http//www.beliefnet.com/story/64/story_6456.html?rnd+=90
The Virtues Project™ strategies help children, youth and adults develop gratitude and other virtues. www.virtuesproject.com