Gratitude circles. They’re a common thing at Springhouse. Everyone gathers in a circle and there’s a moment of silence to think about what we are feeling grateful for - one word only. Someone volunteers to start us off with their word, and we move around the circle until everyone has shared.
For the uninitiated, this exercise can seem hokey and awkward. One, you are holding hands with people who are not your sweetheart or not a young child in your care. Two, you only have one minute to come up with your word. At my first gratitude circle, my brain scrambled through possibilities. It could only be one word so I wanted it to be good. Peace? No, you are not at a Miss America pageant. Cookies? That’s a great response for a five year old. The school? Too obvious. My family. Right now? Yes. No. Mostly.
Inside, I laughed at how silly I was being. This was not a competition. Nobody was judging me for my answer. The gigantic spotlight I imagined on me did not exist. I blushed at my moment of getting caught up in my lower self. Hello? The point of a gratitude circle is actual bona fide gratitude.
Further, the circle prompts us to hold our attention as a community on gratitude such that all our words and actions are infused with it. The more I have seen gratitude in action in our school community, the more I recognize how essential it is.
Gratitude asks us to examine what is good in our lives, what is positive, and what is helping us. It shifts our thinking away from negative thoughts that limit our growth. It allows us to take on the hard things because everything becomes opportunity. (To my beautiful daughter: Yes, even math.)
Gratitude assures us that we always have enough. This leads us to a life of integrity, for why would we ever be anything but honest when we always have everything we need?
Gratitude helps us appreciate the people around us, even those that challenge us most. There will always be those people in our lives, at our jobs, and in our families. I’ve been one of those people, and I really appreciate being thanked for my honesty over a rebuke of anger or worse, given a permanent villainous label.
Gratitude doesn’t worry about tomorrow. It doesn’t judge us as a failure before we’ve made it to next week or next year. It emboldens us to make the best choices available to us right now.
I could go on and on. Science reports that gratitude makes us happier, healthier, and emotionally stronger. It reports that being thankful makes us more attractive, ensures that we’ll make more friends, and even that we’ll live longer. While words like rigor, grit, and resilience get bounced around in education; why isn’t there more buzz about gratitude?
Next time we have a gratitude circle, I’m sure my husband and I will still exchange that look that wonders, “How on earth did we find ourselves in here?” But I’m going to take that moment and find my gratitude, be it big or small, having realized its significance a little bit more. Maybe I will say “cookies”, because honestly, a well timed cookie can be a thing of magic. Today a cookie, tomorrow....world peace? Who can say for sure?
But for now, let me just say: Gratitude Circle, I am grateful for you.