Picnic basket of gratitude

picnic basket

 

First week back at work was filled with various meetings, resource gathering, administration duties and greeting new staff.  As my Christmas break was complimented with learning the practice of gratitude, I approached this week with reflective journaling and recognition of my Inner Attitude when attending various meetings.  Howells (2012) outlines Inner Attitude as the impact on our intention and attention we when practicing gratitude.  My Inner Attitude was going to be my driver for the week.

 

Today I came to work with my picnic basket loaded with homemade muffins sweet and savoury and two thermos flasks so I could offer tea and coffee along with compliment said muffins.  I had invited my immediate team to join me for lunch and a chance to catch up.

During our catch up my team asked me what it was I had done over my Christmas break.  I mentioned the subject that I have been learning and gave a brief outline of what I believed were pivotal points in the gratitude of practice.

  • Awareness of self and possible journey of self-transformation as one becomes aware of his/her practices of gratitude. Howells (2012, p.84) states “If gratitude assists teachers to have better relationships with themselves, their students and society, and it can help them bring more of their whole self to the teaching process, then it also enhances teacher presence.”

 

  • Adversity can be integral to gratitude. Howells (2012) outlines adversity as an experience that can assist one  with building resilience.  Learning lessons through self-reflection of adversity can also present gifts of gratitude.

 

  • Consistent practice doesn’t necessarily mean daily. Howells (2012) suggests when first learning the practice of gratitude to choose only one thing to practice e.g. thanking a person and become better at doing that task with intent of gratitude rather than practising lots of things at once.

 

  • Butterfly effect. Edward Lorenzo’s chaos theory outlining small changes creating a larger change in the future.  Example may be thanking a student for attending class.  In return that student begins to feel the connectedness with the teacher and begins his/her own practice moving forward in the future.

 

  • Connectedness encourages community. Howells (2012) reminds us that we are a part of community and we need to start our journey together where we are.

 

Walking back to our building one of my team mates said “Tash, thank you.  You brought us lunch, made time to ensure we ate and gave us time to catch up and support each other.  Im very grateful for you to do that for us.   Maybe what you brought today was a basket of gratitude.”   I smiled and thanked her for her kind words.

 

Now hours later I am reflecting on her words.  Like many people when we share moments of connectedness with others we do so through the act of sharing a meal.   Today my team shared a meal, gave each other encouragement and support through adversities being faced on both personal and professional levels, we had a moment of connectedness in which a common bond was reached.  Gifts of gratitude were exchanged.

 

I am grateful for the support we share as a small group.  I intend on practicing gratitude to all that I come in contact with.   Maya Angelou, American poet and civil rights activist said “When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.”  The opportunity to do for others has made me a happier, calmer and more purposeful human being.

 

I have suggested the lunch via the picnic basket become one of our weekly lunch dates so that we may reflect on what was, what is, and what could be.  Supporting one another will create our community and though small will provide opportunity for us to invite others to join the gratitude journey.

 

So my question to you is how will you spread the practice of gratitude this year?

 

 

 

Howells, K. (2012). Gratitude in Education: A Radical View, Sense Publishers. Rotterdam.
Image credit picnic basket:  https://www.standard.co.uk/shopping/esbest/best-picnic-hampers-baskets-fortnum-and-mason-anorak-vonshef-a3251386.html
Maya Angelou quote as viewed :  https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/gratitude

STOP LOOK GO

stop sign  eyes   go sign

 

As my studies come to the pointy end where assignments are now being drafted and copious notes highlighted, I find myself reflecting.  What have I learnt from my journey so far?    My subject was chosen with no inquiry as to content matter, I was simply eager to enrol so I may continue my studies through Christmas period and become one step closer to completion of my qualification.

 

As I started the task requirements of my subject, I was lost.   I had no time to reflect on ones emotions and gratitude of practice (I didn’t know what that actually meant at the time), I was busy being busy and hell bent on discovering the ‘theoretical principles’ of the subject so I could get on with assignment writing.

 

So I struggled and struggled to put my weekly posts on the book club task and the creation of a personal blog was terrifying.  Time drew on and I went on holidays for the Christmas period.  Various thoughts screamed at me.   “Stop!  Look at what you are trying to achieve.   Be grateful you have weeks of holidays to immerse yourself in your subject and give it your best effort.  Do you truly know what it is you are trying to achieve?”  So many questions kept running through my mind.

 

Then I stopped.  I went back to the beginning of my subject content and truly began the journey of discovering the practice of gratitude.  Slowly I came to understand the message Kerry Howells (Facilitator of Gratitude in Education) was trying to convey to people just like me.   Howells (2012 p. 38) states “Gratitude goes beyond an emotion or thought to be something that is actualised in one’s daily life through the heartfelt active practice of giving thanks.   Gratitude is usually expressed towards someone or something.   It is also an inner attitude that can be understood as the opposite of resentment or complaint.”

 

My life has changed.   My mindset has changed.   The opportunity to give and receive from others brings me joy, a sense of happiness, I’ve done this all of my life, it now has a conscious level of understanding within myself.  Brother David Steindl-Rast  talks of gratefulness as making us happy.  Becoming aware and availing yourself to opportunity he states is the key to happiness.  How many people have stopped to reflect on their lives and truly understood the purpose of reflection?

 

Method for living gratefully is summarised from Steindl-Rast in three easy steps:

Stop, Look, Go.

STOP:  Look for signs

LOOK:  What opportunities can be provided that will bring happiness and acts of gratitude?

GO:  Put your thoughts into action, give to and accept from others

 

Through my own adversities as I have progressed through the weeks of this program I have actively chosen steps when faced with adversity that may produce opportunities to give thanks for lessons learnt.  I believe the moments of self reflection gave me an opportunity to change my outcomes and I as a result have become consciously aware of my new inner attitude.    Howells (2012,  p.132) diagram outlines dimensions of the impact of one’s inner attitude and will be my mud map of conscious self reflection into the future.

 

I have learnt that the practice of gratitude is one of consistency and intent.  Adversity potentially brings opportunity of learning and reflecting.  Stop, Look, Go theory of Br. David Steindl-Rast brings opportunity for happiness and connection with others.

 

Most importantly, thank you to my followers who have read my journey and were kind in their feedback and suggestions.  You gave me confidence in my journey. 

 

Next week I am back at work and will be talking with fellow staff about the opportunity to develop communities of practice in gratitude.   I look forward to completing my blog with ideas and feedback from that event.

 

 

Howells, K. (2012). Gratitude in education: A radical view. Sense Publisher: Rotterdam/.
You tube clip:  Want to be happy? Be grateful by  David Steindl-Rast  Viewed/ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UtBsl3j0YRQ

Plagues of Adversity, Reflections of Gratitude – Observations from a Support Worker

old lady looking down at bed

 

Christmas and New Year period has come and gone.   The period in one’s life where we are busy being busy, experiencing the joy of celebrating with friends, purchasing presents, over eating and are grateful for the holiday time where public holidays bring opportunity for down time or adventure.

I work as a Support Worker for a community organisation.  During the festive period I see some clients experience mental illness.  Loneliness overtakes them and they often reflect on the adversity of their lives.  For some, a broken relationship with their loved ones or health decline prevents them from travelling meaning they are spending special holidays on their own.   With no family support and limited paid support, mental illness creeps up on them and they are unable to maintain their activities of daily living.  Tasks such as eating regularly, personal hygiene and basic domestic become burdening.

A Support Worker provides not only physical assistance to a client but emotional as well.  Watching someone who has raised families, been successful in their careers, had friendships with others, made a comfortable home for their loved ones etc. are now physically and emotionally alone on special occasions and it is heartbreaking.

A fantastic TV commercial aired approximately two years ago, depicting an old man who goes to great lengths and fakes his own death in desperate attempt to get his children to visit at Christmas time.   This TV commercial highlights just one client scenario I observe, particularly during the festive seasons and client birthdays.

How does adversity make one grateful?

Adversity experienced by my clients has opened up the doors of opportunity at times for both the client and myself. Through client adversity I have learnt some of life lessons as well as skills in areas that I would never have ventured.   I have learnt to play various card games, how to ice wedding cakes, press flowers between books, darn socks, know all the models of the American Chevy cars, tie the appropriate knot to secure my load on a car trailer and how to prolong the life of my makeup.

I have heard the stories of their adversities and how this has shaped them as an individual.   I have comforted them as they have cried over the loss of relationships and regrets and celebrated with them with their wins.   I am grateful that the client has trusted me in order for them to express themselves.  Howells (2012, p. 95) describes the practice of gratitude requiring an awareness of the purity of our gratitude so that our intention behind our giving involves both a functional and equal relationship.    I am humbled by the simplicity of conversation and the magic that intertwines our mutual respect for each other as this occurs.  Being given responsibility and trust to care for someone else is a gift.

So next holiday season how can we go about ensuring our elderly are not alone emotionally or physically?

Small acts of gratitude

Sykes (2014) has mentioned in her article various practices that can make a difference in the lives of those who are isolated.  Given my understanding of gratitude, I believe these practices may become acts of gratitude when done with sincerity and purpose.   A few include:

  1. Encouraging communities and neighbourhoods to engage with elderly people, encouraging them to participate in community events.

  2. Checking in on an elderly neighbour regularly, asking if they have basic daily supplies i.e. milk, bread etc.

  3. Taking time to have a chat with an older person.

  4. Genuinely thanking a person for their time, help or conversation.

Small actions have huge impact on those who are alone, giving that person a sense of belonging and connection.  Done with intent the small acts mentioned above may also bring you a sense of gratitude.

The gratitude that is experienced by the elderly is genuine and when returned may give you to a sense of belonging and happiness.   Howells (2012, p. 103) states “Our expressions of gratitude unite us with others by causing us to acknowledge, recognise, celebrate, become calm and connect.”

Sounds to me like a fabulous way to start the New Year.   🙂

 

 

 

Howells, K. (2012). Gratitude in Education: A Radical View, The Netherlands: Sense Publishers
Sykes, J. (2014). Prevent Elderley loneliness at Christmas time.  My ageing parent.co , Retrieved from: https://myageingparent.com/life/care-life/prevent-elderly-loneliness-this-christmas/
Edeka Christmas Commercial, Retrieved from l: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4_B6wQMd2eI
Image credit:  https://jaynesquiltingroom.blogspot.com.au/p/grandmas-quilts.html

Car Park Treasures

band aid on car

Who would of thought I would capture treasure from a car park experience, treasures of gratitude from and to my youngest daughter.

Christmas shopping means fighting eager drivers for the undercover car park or car parking spaces at all.  My time had come to fight the fight.  My youngest child knows me very well and had already started to counsel me on the drive to the shopping centre.   “Ok now breathe Mum.   You know the next couple hours of your life are not going to be your favourite, but we have a mission to accomplish and I have to get to work.”  My eyes rolled in my head; I was already conjuring up images of people raising their fists at me with laser beams streaming from their eyes as I tried to find a car park in what seemed an impossible mission, everyone fighting for the last one and creatively parking so it was impossible for you to get out when your shopping was done.

Since undertaking my subject “Gratitude in Education” for my degree I have come to look at the world in a different light.  Time is now spent reflecting on my experiences of adversity and the opportunity for them to teach me new lessons in life, my opportunity for personal growth.  Reflecting on gratitude and what the practice of gratitude is, has given me an opportunity for a more fulfilling life rather than simply existing from day to day, repeating the same routine without truly feeling the experience as it is lived.   With this in mind, I put forward a positive thought and proceeded to find a car park.  Within ten minutes I had achieved success.  Only one vigorous fist wave from a cranky driver and I had found an empty car park.   With biggest task accomplished I was able to drop daughter off to work and begin the shopping list.

Four hours passed and I trudged back to the car park, proud of myself for thanking each and every customer service member with sincerity for their service, smiling at fellow shoppers, helping a lost tourist,  I felt genuinely great and gave myself a pat on the back for still remaining positive for the experience.   I clicked the locks to the car, unpacked the items from my trolley and removed a wayward trolley from the front end of my car.   I didn’t think much about the wayward trolley until I was returning.  There down side of my car, someone or something had made a large gash in my paint work.   Anger rose inside me, who could do that, obvious damage and walk away without leaving a note?   I voiced my opinions to my daughter.   She remained calm, guided me to my side of car and into my seat.

 

“Mum there are options you know.”

“Really?”  was my response “And please tell me what they happen to be.”

Quietly she said “Anger, screaming and tanty kicking or forgiveness and google for a band aid.”

 

I burst into laughter, a band aid for the car, now I had heard it all.  I backed out of the car park and headed towards home.   My daughter was busy tapping on her phone, I assumed talking to her friends as she had been off line for five hours now and for a teenager this seems like a life time.

No during the twenty minute ride home she had found a band aid for my car, yep someone has created them and I’m sure is making a fortune.  She also found an app called “Unstuck”.   This app helps you to see and solve situations with fresh perspective through provocative questions, targeted tips, and action-orientated tools.  What a fantastic tool to assist us through potentially challenging times.   I have now added the app to my phone for such an occasion.

Later that night as I crawled into bed and reflected on my day I realised that not only do I look at life differently, so too do my children.  In moments of adversity, my daughter looked for options rather than getting bogged down with the issue.  Humour was served as a tool to relieve a stressful situation and bring clarity to the situation.   Nothing was life threatening just disappointing that someone was not thoughtful enough to be responsible for their actions.

 

While we are in the middle of adversity, caught in the eye of the storm, it may be almost impossible to practice gratitude.  It is the time after the event when we can contemplate areas where we might be able to respond with gratitude, to reflect on what the situation can teach us.  (Howells, 2012, p.  112).

 

American playwright and novelist Thornton Wilder said “We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.”   As I lay in bed my emotions were acknowledged, my heart was happy, I felt so proud that my child could put things into perspective so easily when faced with adversity.  Grateful for the opportunity for both of us to learn a little bit more about the true essence of humanity, supporting each other through good times and bad with a little laughter thrown in.

 

Howells, K. (2012). Gratitude in Education: A radical view: Sense Publishers.
Wilder, T. Retrieved from:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/44061.Thornton_Wilder
Unstuck phone app: https://www.unstuck.com/free-app/
Image credit:  http://www.ohboytoy.com/jumbo-auto-aid—large-bandaid-magnet.aspx

Gratitude is a cow

cows

 

 

I recently went to visit my Mum on the family’s farm.  I noticed Mum head down to the paddock for the 3rd day in a row just before sunrise with a bucket of chaff and an old milking stool.  Curious as to why she wasn’t bringing the cows into the yard for milking I asked her “Mum why are you walking half the paddock to greet the cows every morning?  Shouldn’t they be coming to you?”

Mum looked at me with a half grin and said “I’m off to talk to my girls, they give me the answers I need for the day and don’t judge me if the day doesn’t pan out the way it should.”  I thought she had gone mad talking to a herd of cows, however shook my head and wished her well.

Later when she came in, Mum informed me that she does her walk to the paddock every morning.  I again asked her why?  Mums answer was “Cows aren’t just an income you know.  For me it’s the company first thing in the morning before the chores start, the calves bring me entertainment frolicking around each other, I get exercise going to greet them, they don’t judge me when I talk to them and sometimes I come up with the answers I need and most of all I think they appreciate my efforts.”  I sat there stunned.  Surely the cows aren’t grateful for the early morning chat and a treat of chaff before milking?

Thinking about the cows in the paddock, there is a variety of things I am grateful they bring.   The cow gives us a diverse range of products:  dairy delights such as yoghurt, cream, milk, cheese and butter to name a few.  The cow can be butchered for its meat including their organs. Their cow hide can be used for various decorative or fashion accessories e.g. belts and floor rugs to name a few.  The cows bring me memories of my Mum’s home and a sense of connection to the land.

With my Mother’s conversation in mind I sat down at the computer to investigate whether cows are grateful creatures.   I came across a clip from You Tube which depicts a cow touching hay for what must have been the first time in a long time and jumping for joy for the freedom it is currently experiencing.  The delight in the cow’s movements is obvious to observe.  The cow making a connection with the man at the end of the clip indeed shows the cow displaying gratitude.

Maybe Mum’s walk to the cows every morning is one of her practices of gratitude.   It’s evident from our conversation, that it is a moment in time Mum can be at one with her animals that bring her emotional comfort and connection to her livelihood.  Howells (2012, p. 103) states “Our expressions of gratitude unite us with others by causing us to acknowledge, recognise, celebrate, become calm and connect.”

Reflecting on Mum’s morning routine,  the daily practice of gratitude and the mindset it creates by being conscious of our inner attitude and practice brings Howells (2012, p. 104) statement to the fore front of my mind “By consciously choosing to start our day with gratitude, we are creating conditions that ward off resentment.”  Gratitude today is indeed a cow!!

The Jewish proverb “All is not butter that comes from the cow” certainly takes on new meaning.  🙂

 

 

Howells, K. (2012). Gratitude in Education: A Radical View, Sense Publishers.
Cow Literally Dances For Joy And Shows Man Gratitude After Being Freed From Tiny Stable: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aNtStsw3rMo

Gratitude from the Change Room

change room

Visiting my local Kmart store during late night shopping I came across a scenario of gratitude in action between a young employee (observations this lass was approx. 16 years of age) and a lady putting clothing back on hangers and then onto a rack.  Whilst waiting in line for my turn in the change room, I overheard their conversation.  The teen was thanking the lady for her help with placing the articles back on hangers.  The teen mentioned she was under extra pressure with her workload due to the Christmas trade and increase in customers.  The lady smiled and said she did not mind helping out whilst she was waiting for her daughter to try on the clothes she was thinking of purchasing.

When the daughter had finished trying on clothes she came out to her mum with a pile of clothes in her hands and an armful of hangers.   The teen placed them on the counter and was about to leave when her mum said “Come on, help this poor young lady out, she is very busy and you are capable of putting clothes back on a hanger.”   The young employee looked at the mother and said with a smile “Thank you so much for helping me” and her body language reflected same.

This got me thinking, how did the young employee come to recognise the offer from the mother to help in the change room as one of gratitude?

In their research of developing gratitude in the lives of children,  Froh & Bono (2014)  encourage the development children’s cognitive awareness during social exchanges and the benefits children may experience in their everyday lives.

People feel grateful when they acknowledge receiving an intentional act of kindness from a benefactor,” the researchers write.  “Specifically, they experience gratitude in response to benefits that (a) they perceive as valuable to them,  (b) were provided intentionally and altruistically (rather than for ulterior motives), and (c) were costly to the benefactor.

In the case of the young employee the formula is applied:

  • Young employee recognises the benefit of reduced work load and possibility of completing the task on time.
  • Mother offered assistance hanging clothes on the hangers.
  • Mother got no $ reward for her efforts, gave up own personal time to benefit the young employee.

Froh, J. and Giacomo, B (2014, p. 4). state “Gratitude helps forge individual’s character by aligning their actions with their moral feelings and beliefs in the short run and their social relationships with their goals and ultimate concerns in the long run.”  The communication between the young employee and the mother broke immediate barriers creating a brief sense of bond with common intention.  The interaction would have supported the teen’s emotional wellbeing, beliefs in helping others and brought an opportunity for the teen to reflect on this moment of kindness and its benefits of doing same in her future, should opportunity arise.

Dawson’s article “The key to a Happy Life?  Gratitude that Goes beyond Thanksgiving discusses ten reasons why the cultivation of gratitude is beneficial.  Three of the dot points come to mind when I think of this article that reminds me of the above mentioned scenario are:

  1. Gratitude empowers you – I could see the confidence of the young employee to communicate with a person she had never met, discuss and objective and define and outcome all within a very short period of time. The young employee had confidence to initiate this when opportunity was presented.
  2. Fosters a sense of community – With the empowerment, the encouragement of the mother, the young employee worked together as a team to complete the stated goal. A sense of networking was created.
  3. Increases life satisfaction for kids – This experience will benefit that young employee in her future. She too may offer to help someone when she identifies a need in a situation and offer with integrity and compassion knowing it will help another.

From an outsider looking in, the simple act of kindness demonstrated from the mother to the young employee gave me a chance to observe gratitude in action.  On a personal level this observation provided me with a sense of connectedness towards another, has upheld my feelings of faith in our community that we are willing to help another without seeking reward.  My own piece of gratitude 🙂

 

 

Dawson, A. (2017). The Key to a Happy Life?  Gratitude That Goes beyond Thanksgiving,   L.A. Times    viewed:  https://gratefulness.org/resource/key-happy-life-gratitude-goes-beyond-thanksgiving/
Froh, J., & Giacomo, B. (2014). Making grateful kids, the Science of Building Character. Templeton Press, West  Conshohocken, PA.
Teaching students gratitude.  (2017).   Educational Research Newsletter & Webinars,  p. 1 Viewed:   https://www.ernweb.com/educational-research-articles/gratitude-students-social-emotional-learning-relationships/
Image credit:  https://novarefitouts.com.au/products/shop-fitouts/

Gratitude as an attitude for our children

Gratitude Fairy book 2

Children’s story time was being held in our local library on the weekend.  The book being narrated was  “The Very Fairy Princess Attitude of Gratitude” picture book by Julie Andrews & Emma Walton Hamilton.  The librarian sat down with the children and started to read.  The librarian asked the children questions pertaining to the content on various pages as she progressed through the book.  As the story developed we came across a section in the story where the teacher,  Mr. Bonario purchases a piece of artwork that was painted by the main character of the story, Gerry.  Gerry had painted the picture with an idea in mind however the artwork was interpreted by others as something else and some children teased her for it.  This left Gerry feeling inadequate and sad.  Gerry’s teacher saw multiple meanings when he viewed the painting and purchased the artwork for others to view and enjoy, in particular Gerry’s best friend who was away on that day.

A child in the group, approximately the age of 7 or 8, stopped the librarian mid sentence and with eyes wide open said “See that, the teacher is a very kind man.”   The librarian asked him why he thought the teacher was kind as it was just a piece of student artwork the teacher was purchasing.  The young boy looked at the librarian with shock. “Don’t you get it?  That teacher saw different things in the artwork and thinks Gerry is very cool to have painted a picture that has lots of different meanings.  On top of that he knows Gerry is upset because her friend isn’t there to see it and wants Gerry to know she is not alone.”

I was shocked.   I sat there as the librarian thanked him for his contribution and wise words and continued with the story.    The young boy had quickly defined the act of gratitude in the story as the Teacher purchasing artwork so others could appreciate looking at it, and also to support a child who on the day was feeling very alone.   Howells (2012, p. 49) states “ Our gratitude practice, could help us develop our character if we adopted it as a means in itself, not looking at the outcomes beyond practice.”  Is this what the teacher was doing by purchasing the picture and providing opportunity for Gerry to feel value from another person in her time of need?  Adams (as cited in Howells, 2012, p. 70) quote “A teacher effects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops” rings true in this example.  Mr Bonario’s selfless actions of that day may indeed project further acts of gratitude in years to come when Gerry finds herself in a similar situation and reflects on her own experiences to get her through the present one.  Acts of gratitude bring forth further acts of gratitude.

This experience left me with lots of questions.   How did the child in the library understand the concept of gratitude?  Was he being taught in school soft acts of gratitude and therefore his learning of gratitude was now identifiable?  Did he learn gratitude at home?     Researching how children are taught the acts of gratitude I came an interesting article by Jeffrey Froh discussing ways in which we can encourage gratitude in children.

Froh discusses encouraging children to help others and nurture relationships.   Froh (2014) states “When children lend a hand, especially while using their strengths, they feel more connected to those they’re helping, which helps them to develop and nurture friendships and social relationships.”  Andrews & Hamilton’s book: The Very Fairy Princess Attitude of Gratitude, provides examples on how the children may do this through their activities of daily living and engage with others so their willingness to help and develop friendships becomes part of their individual character.

Educating our children to act in meaningful way leads to adults living a life connected to others.  From here great things can happen.  The challenge is to understand what gratitude is, how it is practiced and the basis of its teaching.   Whilst the subject of gratitude is not taught as dedicated subject in school curricular, it is imperative that the children are exposed to the theory of gratitude, be free to explore its depth and meaning to them and be given opportunity to practice it.

 

 

Andrews. J., & Walton Hamilton, E. (2016).  The Very Fairy Princess Attitude of Gratitude.  New York, Boston: Little, Brown and Company.
Froh, J. (2014). Seven ways to foster gratitude in kids. Greater Good magazine, Retrieved from :https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/seven_ways_to_foster_gratitude_in_kids
Howells, K. (2012). Gratitude in education: A radical view: Sense Publishers.