I am feeling very fortunate to have found an activity that all of our students LOVE to do. And equally important, actually even more important, is that it commands an immediate focus naturally, one that transforms an attitude in a matter of moments! It sounds almost too good to be true, doesn’t it?
It involves a little 99¢ app that is a gratitude journal. I am sure that a bit of the “pull or attraction” is that it involves using an iPad and having some freedom to choose a theme and a font, BUT it is evident that it is far more than that…it is the FOCUS on gratitude that is the key. There is an innate desire in us ALL to acknowledge good, to feel gratitude, and to find avenues to express it. EVERY one of our students (and our teacher/mentors) can go immediately and naturally into a quiet mode with this app regardless of what they have been doing previous to it, plunging right into their grateful mode, and then writing pretty effortlessly about what they are grateful for. And rarely are their items of gratitude physical items or “things”. Never once has a student not wanted to participate and of late everyone has gotten into the attitude of also wanting to share orally what s/he has written…. deep and insightful things about their true nature and what strikes them in the moment. Hooray!
The app is called “Gratitude Journal Plus”, whose byline is “change your thoughts, change your life.” Their logo is a picture of a baby or toddler sitting still, perhaps meditating. We are imagining it is a caricature of a baby Buddha, but that may or may not be true. But at any rate the picture is appealing to our students. Besides the note pad that starts out with “Today I am grateful for…”, lines to type upon, a place to choose a theme for your daily gratitude note pad and a font in order to personalize it, and a place to rate your day, there is also a thought-provoking quote that changes each time and a sticky note comment that our students love to share round-robin style. The combination of the items on the app AND its theme of GRATITUDE has touched our students and we do it daily, oftentimes twice. If we miss a day the students notice and we double-up the next day.
My own gratitude increases even more during the openness of the sharing that happens after the students write, as I see such tenderness, insight and innocence shared by several who others may not presently label as tender or innocent….including themselves. Even the biggest and brawniest, or students challenged with focus, anger or emotional issues have been able to see a NEW side of themselves and are soaking in the love and inner satisfaction that comes from being thankful, recognizing goodness, and seeing a new view of him/herself or of the day. This is a transforming and HEALING activity!
The best way I could think of to share some of the goodness that has come about through using this app is to share (with their permission) some of what the students have written on their own, without any direction or instruction about what to write except to be grateful. I am using their words verbatim and using only the entries from our students, not from our teacher-mentors at this point, though those are inspiring, as well. The types of things these students are acknowledging say SO much about who they REALLY are. So here goes:
“Today I am grateful for:
● quiet moments ● being me ● the rising sun ● the nice feeling of getting “completions” done ● the feeling after I have been honest ● knowing that I AM my true nature ● being right here, right now ● having caring friends ● knowing I had a good day ● knowing that when things don’t go well that I always have tomorrow to do better ● that I am myself ● to know I can do whatever I need to ● knowing that I am a kind and respectful person ● having my true nature with me everywhere I go ● knowing that I am a masterpiece ● knowing that I am kind ● being happy ● having a day of progress and love ● having an opportunity to do my best today ● knowing that when things don’t go my way I can handle that ● knowing I am in the present moment ● having a loving community to give me support ● that I don’t have to redo my work because it is already correct ● being reassured by love and goodness ● hearing the soothing music ● the good in everyone ● the happiness in the room ● the calm fog ● the pretty streams of sunlight ● the self-awareness of others ● the great inner peace that is inside all of us ● a great new day full of opportunity and love ● the endless possibility of this fresh new day ● the help that we all give to each other here ● the sound of the chimes ● the nice calmness in the room ● the beautiful colors of the bearstone ● bearstone stillness ● the participation of everyone ● that our group includes everyone ● the peace of everyone sitting in the circle feeling grateful ● the sounds of birds chirping ● the scent of grapefruit and a peppermint candle ● coloring a mandala ● to get to dance in Zumba and have fun ● the treat of going shopping before school ● to look at books with my parent ● going on hikes ● skipping stones ● seeing my friends ● being able to pay attention and do my work ● being able not to make any sounds when it is time to pay attention ● doing all my homework ● listening to my teacher ● for doing my math ● following instructions ● T sees my best self ● going kayaking ● swimming in the lake with my friends ● helping each other ● listening for animals on our hike ● eating new foods ● my new friends ● to be loved ● that my parents adopted me ● life as a human ● food and shelter ● being able to sleep ● ability to afford this school ● being alive ● being me ● the ability to walk ● to be able to talk and see ● to be able to hear ● that I woke up on my own today ● that people care about me ● that I am part of a great community ● that I have the ability to actually find my true nature ● the life that has been given to me ● having T, Jay, Steph and Joe as a part of my life ● my great lunch that my dad made for me ● getting all my homework done today ● going to Scholars Together ● that I am happy ● this peaceful morning ● this app ● the coolness of this day ● RiverHawk ● my grandmother driving me to school ● the beautiful trees ● our three dogs ● the different seasons ● my dad’s cooking ● my mom’s baking ● my sister’s volleyball game ● to know that everyone has love and forgiveness inside of them ● my fuzzy bed ● my loving family ● my friends and family ● my mom ● my dad ● my bearstone ● flowers ● that I can thrive ● the yummy spaghetti sauce we are making and canning together ● Tom’s happiness (not written by Tom) ● I am safe ● puppy dogs ● paper ● having a true nature that is caring and loving ● to know that I am able to complete all of my homework and edits ● being happy ● I am me ● the air that the trees give to us ● my sisters who care about me ● to know that people love me even when I mess up ● my brain ● school ● calmness ● a rainy day that feels cozy inside ● having chocolate malts for dessert – my favorite ● that my core group is getting along so well ● to get almost all 5’s on my daily sheet ● finishing all my homework ● doing my best in Zumba ● helping my dad over the weekend ● to sit in the circle and connect with the others ● being at school ● having a good friend ● being born into this world ● having a good day ● having the same room and roommate ● that I did all my homework last night ● being with everyone here today ● a nice and beautiful day outside ● having a good day ● starting the day off in good way ● doing my best on my homework this week ● I did well on my email ● a good day ● that I am me ● I can learn ● I am good at math ● being in the present moment ● the moon ● the birds ● that I had a good morning ● that I know that I am going to have a good night ● having a good lunch ● to be living ● a good breakfast ● I got all my homework done ● that I am learning ● the fog ● that I am able to learn ● that I am smart ● a good sleep ● calming music ● the birds chirping ● that I am alive ● this day ● the trees ● the wind ● the shade ● the heat ● the very good hike ● that I am here ● running ● that I am learning well ● that we are going to have special nachos tonight ● having a good time in yoga ● watching a movie about American Indians today and last night ● doing my best on my geology test ● that I know I am going to get all my homework done ● that I am connecting with more kids my age ● the great and quiet morning ● that I am here at RiverHawk ● the meditation in the morning ● that I finished all my work ● the earth ● everything that is good ● to be so happy ● the sun ● the beautiful day ● the animals ● the cold morning ● everything!”
As I finish copying these writings from the students journals I am pretty much awestruck at what is going on in their thoughts! I am thinking that this blog may be enough for the whole year to remind me (and others) who these kids are! And what is already IN there for nourishing and being thankful for! This does my heart SO much good…touches it in such a tender and potent place to know what the willingness to be grateful brings! And that the outward appearance of ANYone doesn’t necessarily tell us who s/he is. That EACH of us every moment is the receiver of beautiful thoughts, ideas, fresh starts, and mountaintop perspectives of ourselves, others and of our day. I am SO very grateful for each of our students who dares to share their gratitude so openly and freely. They are prayers to me, that remind me of the childlikeness I long to embody and live. Mmmmm, the power of acknowledging good…and the love and healing that gratitude brings is so transforming.
I am going to consider this the STLC Thanksgiving offering to us all. And the invitation to give ourselves a treat and take time for gratitude.
“Not what we say about our blessings, but how we USE them is the true measure of our thanksgiving.” W. T. Purkiser
written by Tien Stone Langlois, Scholars Together Learning Community, Inc.