Thanksgiving provides an important opportunity for reflection and gratitude. Often a time spent with loved ones, the holiday affords us an occasion to take the time to appreciate our lives in whatever way feels authentic — to pause and feel grateful for health, family, friends and community. We practiced this in Forum this week, with students in grades 5 and 7 reflecting on their school, their families and their health. The girls easily recognized and happily shared their appreciation of hard-working parents, strong legs that enable them to participate in sports, a dynamic curriculum and close friends. They expressed emotions varying from love of siblings to delight in snack to recognition of the Dining Hall staff at Dana. Amid stress that may come for students about sports tryouts or end of trimester assessments, time spent on appreciating the positive brings important focus and perspective. These dialogues can also help offset a developmental and societal habit of focusing on what others have that we want.
Growing up, my parents had a ritual in which every Friday night my family and any friends who were present shared what they were thankful for. It was a tradition that enforced values. One of the ways I highlight this with my own children is through service, most recently at Horizons for Homeless Children. We do this at Dana as part of our values, including the Thanksgiving Meal Community Service project. Service underscores how gratitude can be complemented with empathy. Holidays for some can be a reminder of loss. While many of us are busy with excitement for Thanksgiving, others are anticipating with sadness an empty seat at the table. Being deliberate with your girls and modeling conversations around gratitude and empathy can be grounding and meaningful.
Over the holidays, when emotions range from excited anticipation to joy to disappointment to anxiety, we are reminded that modeling empathy and gratitude both towards ourselves and others, inspires our children and students to focus on what matters most.