I asked the children to think of someone towards whom they felt gratitude and to put it into words in a card. In general, this is something that we rarely do. It requires us to be more open hearted than we usually feel to perform this task and so it is difficult for us; it is much easier to go on receiving and not to acknowledge whatever it is that is continually being given to us or done for us.
However, the psychologists say, and we know ourselves, that gratitude and appreciation are actually good for us, apart from also making those we appreciate feel that all their hard work has been worthwhile. As the research psychologist Robert Emmons* wrote, ‘People who are consistently grateful are happier, energetic and more hopeful, optimistic and satisfied with life.’
If we appreciate what we have instead of dwelling on what we have yet to acquire or what we lack we are clearly going to be happier. My family make fun of me when I say that God helps me find parking spaces, but I do frequently send little prayers of thanks when good things happen. I'm not as good at telling people that I appreciate them.
I know that the children's cards were gratefully received by many people: friends, teachers and parents. (And if your child didn't happen to choose you in that moment, it doesn't mean that they don't feel grateful to you - just that it is almost harder to acknowledge gratitude to the people closest to us.)
I think a New Year's Resolution for myself would be to give more praise and acknowledge the amazing efforts that people are making around me. Perhaps I can take this opportunity to say thank you to all our staff at St. Helen's College in their various roles, teaching and non-teaching, who are so dedicated and work so hard to care for and educate our children and make St. Helen's College such a happy place to work and learn.
Thank you to the children whose beautiful behaviour (99% of the time!) and desire to learn make educating them such a pleasure, and thank you to our school parents, for being so supportive of what we are doing at St. Helen's College and their partnership in the care of the children . . . and I've just remembered that I have yet to write thank you cards for the lovely presents from the children at Christmas!!
Happy New Year!
*Robert Emmons’ website is at http://psychology.ucdavis.edu/labs/emmons/PWT/index.cfm