What is one thing that you’re feeling grateful for right now?” This question often opens my profession learning sessions with teachers. Some may be wondering why I’d start with gratitude when our purpose is to study literacy practices. The answer is simple. Gratitude and success are directly tied. Shawn Achor, positive psychology researcher and one of my all-time favorite mentors, teaches us that practicing gratitude together connects us, moves us into a more creative space, and can help lead us to successful outcomes. Yet lately, this opening question has been met with long pauses and sometimes even a straight, “I can’t. Everything is just so awful.”
I get it. Things are hard right now. The season of mistletoe and jolly ho ho hos definitely has more of a humbug vibe this year, but that doesn’t mean that we can be grateful. The trouble is that people are mistaking naming joy with the practice of gratitude. They are not one and the same.
Here’s are some of the things that I am grateful for this holiday season:
I’m grateful for those that I miss dearly this Christmas because it means that my life is full of people that I love deeply.
I’m grateful while hanging a wreath on my father’s gravestone because years of laughter, generosity, Friday night dinners, and calls to check on my car mean that I was one of the lucky ones who had a father that adored her. I miss him, and I am grateful.
I’m grateful for those who are comforting the sick and dying in our hospitals right now. The realities of this year may mean not having your family at your side during your last breath, but I know that amazing health care workers are not letting people pass alone.
My list can go on and on, but I’ll stop here for the moment. If you’ve read it, you can see that it is not necessarily representative of joy. Joy and gratitude are different. Our joys are our highlights. Our gratitude is our appreciation of the beauty and complexity of life, even the pain that comes with living it. Hopefully, we will get back to joy, and may even find moments of it through the challenges of this season. However, for now, gratitude can live on.