Find in yourself a grateful heart and express gratitude for any and all aspects of nature and life. Begin every episode with thanksgiving and give nods of thanks as you go about your day.
– Coyote’s Guide to Connecting with Nature, p. 73
Our society and our culture is obsessed with the idea of wanting more … of needing more. We live in a culture of incompleteness. We are always waiting for the next big thing to complete us or to make us happy (finally). If only we would learn to be thankful for the small things and to be thankful for what we have been given already. Ahh … to feel satisfied … then, we will feel complete. And then, we will feel happy.
We live in a world where glass half empty is the norm. As a result we struggle to teach children to be glass half full. If you think about it, this is a lot of what we do …all … day … long.
“Teacher, my mom forgot to pack me a tuna sandwich. I asked for a tuna sandwich, but I got a ham and cheese. I don’t like ham and cheese.”
“Johnny, please eat your sandwich. You need the food in your tummy.” (actual thinking: you should be happy to have a sandwich, because Fidelia doesn’t have one).
In the end, the child usually chooses to go hungry because they don’t prefer the sandwich that they have been given.
This is just a small example for western culture. Many of us take many things for granted: having freedom & choice, having a roof over our heads, having food to eat, having clothes and shoes to wear, having a free education, having free health care, having a place to rest our heads, having adults who care about us, having a beautiful school to attend, having a gorgeous forest to play in, having adults make wonderful things possible for us … because they care about us and because they love us.
Throughout the past few years I have inconsistently had “gratefulness circles.” I regret not having done it more consistently.
Two months ago while we were in the forest a handful of my students began to have too many arguments for my comfort level. They were attempting to solve their conflicts, but the arguments kept getting bigger and bigger. In the moment, I decided that a thankfulness/gratefulness circle might do the trick. My thinking was that regardless of what happens throughout our day that we don’t like, there is always something to be thankful for. I wouldn’t say that it did the trick. In fact, on this day I had quite a few students refuse to be thankful for anything. But, I see great potential in the practice of a thankfulness/gratefulness circle. If I had been more consistent with my implementation of a gratefulness circle, it would have helped to heal open wounds, or at least put them into perspective and make them less important.
Since then I have almost daily ended our time in the forest with a gratefulness circle. I still have the occasional student who refuses to participate, but the frequency and number is shrinking. I regret not having done this earlier, as I see great potential in this practice. Can you imagine a group of children who are taught from an early age to be thankful multiple times a day? Can you imagine what kind of adults they would become? Can you imagine how complete and happy these adults could be … even if they didn’t have everything?
I practice thankfulness daily. People ask me why I laugh so much.
Today, I am thankful for (this is an incomplete list):
- The sun and the rain
- The ocean and the birds
- Being surrounded by a rainforest
- Having a place to live
- Having a car that works
- Having food to eat
- Having a job I love
- Having my bosses care about my interest and make it possible for me to continue on the path that I have started
- Having mentors who guide me
- Having parents who love me
- Having a brother who feeds me
What are you thankful for?