Superintendent’s Corner: Cultivate gratitude and give
This time of year brings time for reflection for many of us in the United States. It allows us to consider all the things we are grateful for, but it should also push us to reflect on how we can be better, individually and collectively. For some, it can also bring back traumatic memories and experiences.
Consider a Thanksgiving story, for example, that begins with the massacre of Indigenous People — who had been the stewards of lands on this continent for at least 12,000 years — by English settlers. This event can be said to mark the beginning of the United States as a colonial settler country. As you can imagine, this scene contrasts the popular portrayal of the first Thanksgiving, where Pilgrims and “Indians” enjoyed a feast together while giving thanks.
Though many people now know that the Wampanoag People and those English settlers came together due to many political motives, including nurturing an alliance and pursuing peace, it is generally left unacknowledged. The Wampanoag People indeed shared their food and knowledge of the environment. It is unlikely that the English would have had such a successful harvest for the first “Thanksgiving” otherwise. We have learned that despite their agreements, cooperation between the two groups was short-lived.
Giving thanks, for many, is an everyday way of life. Sometimes gratitude comes from having the space to acknowledge the gifts we receive daily, and sometimes it comes from a fear of loss. Recently, our son caught a bad case of RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus). He had a high-grade fever for six days, was hospitalized for four days, and needed assistance breathing from an oxygen concentrator. For our family, it was a very long 10 days that gave us a sudden reminder of the things in our lives that are most important: our loved ones and our health.
An article published by Harvard Health Publishing last year reminded us that the act of giving thanks could make us happier and included ideas for practices to cultivate gratitude:
- Write a thank-you note. Studies show that doing so will bring you happiness and nurture your relationship with the recipient.
- Thank someone mentally. If you do not have time to write a letter, it can help to think about someone who has done something nice for you and mentally thank the individual.
- Keep a gratitude journal. Make it a habit to write down or share thoughts about the gifts you have received each day with a loved one.
- Count your blessings. Pick a time every week to sit down and write about your blessings, reflecting on what went right or what you are grateful for.
- Meditate. Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on the present moment without judgment. Try focusing on what you’re grateful for (the warmth of the sun, a pleasant sound, etcetera).
- Pray. Religious people can use prayer to cultivate gratitude.
I encourage everyone to cultivate gratitude but also, as many of us prepare for large meals with our families this season, I encourage all of us to consider feeding those who are not as fortunate. Especially during these freezing nights as winter approaches, I encourage all of us who have a warm roof over our heads to give to those who are houseless or cold.
And in a less material form, I encourage all of us, whenever we witness an injustice, to uphold our responsibility to confront hate speech at all turns, in order to prevent misinformation and hate from growing into acts of violence, as they recently did in Colorado Springs. Give what you are able to when you can.
I am grateful for the honor of being the Superintendent of the Roaring Fork School District and thankful to our entire community, especially our staff, for giving their all to fulfilling our mission for each of our students.
Jesús Rodríguez is Superintendent of the Roaring Fork District schools in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt.
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