Bears Repeating

Practicing Gratitude

by Jess Hill

November 2019

In recent years, Thanksgiving has become my favorite holiday. Part of the reason is the nostalgia it stirs within me with the late November skies that surround us during this time of year. We are reminded of the nearing end of a year and the promising start of another, along with the assurance of having a few days to dedicate ourselves to something important to us, family and friends. If we are lucky, we also seize a slower pace with plenty of time set aside to feel grateful for the people in our lives. We are much obliged to Harpeth Hall teachers who even refrain from giving any assignments during the break. What is not to love?

Interestingly, I read an article this morning which suggests gratitude is wasted on Thanksgiving. The author points out that we really need it on the 364 other days of the year. He lists the reasons why we should practice gratitude on all the other days. First, it’s a wonderful way to strike up a conversation and make a new friend, though that may not be needed when we’re surrounded by loved ones. Gratitude also increases our generosity and general life satisfaction, and we already feel those things on Thanksgiving. It helps stabilize any negative effects of a bad day, and although some family dinner table conversations can cause anxiety, they probably don’t qualify as our hardest challenge.

These arguments seem weak at best, because we can probably all agree that gratitude is a good thing on any day. I think the larger point of the article was that gratitude comes easily on Thanksgiving. We are primed for it. We know that is what we do on the fourth Thursday of November. Instead of an anomaly, perhaps we should think of Thanksgiving as the beginning of a season, a time to get back in shape for the real game. When we are stuck in traffic or stressed in a frustrating class or job, that is when it is a little harder to feel grateful. When we feel lonely or sad, that is when it is good to remember the vibe of Thanksgiving. When we practice feeling grateful, we get better at it. 

This week, I saw so many examples of girls practicing gratitude. Our 5th grade students made pumpkin bread from our garden’s fall pumpkins for our Empty Bowls event on Saturday, which benefited The Nashville Food Project, an organization helping to alleviate hunger in our community. The students and teachers created dozens and dozens of beautiful ceramic bowls to share with our guests on Saturday, and best of all, filled them with delicious squash soup, with squash also from our school garden. Our Upper School students provided a gratitude breakfast for all of us one morning, and our seniors connected with their 5th grade buddies to create a thankful list together. Finally, our Middle School advisories made a beautiful gratitude quilt, which hangs in the 8th grade pod. They are practicing, and it is contagious.

As we head into shorter days and more harried schedules, let’s remember that we need these moments of gratitude even more. Eye rolling aside, it is still okay to ask our children to name something for which they are thankful. It is okay if their parents or teachers are not on their list, but I can assure you that your girls are always at the top of our list.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Jess Hill

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