The Practice of Gratitude

Photo by Gabrielle Henderson on Unsplash

One of my top five Strengths is Learner which probably doesn’t surprise anyone who knows me well. I get fascinated by a variety of topics and fall down rabbit holes learning about them. After I read Margaret J. Wheatley’s book, Leadership and the New Science, I spent the summer reading books about physics. (Notice I didn’t say physics books – there’s a substantial difference and a lot less math in books about physics.) I was amazed by the oddity of quantum physics.

Or there was the time I read a book called Maps of the Imagination: Writer as Cartographer by Peter Turchi and wound up exploring the history of maps. And, not surprisingly at all, when I start looking at articles or Ted Talks or any number things on the internet, well what did happen to that Tuesday evening? Which serves to remind me that my time reading about campus plans, surging infection rates in my state and in my hotspot of a county, and the mental health of college students has a downside.

So on Monday, when I found myself smiling about three different items I read, I was grateful.

There’s this from an article in The New Yorker under the title, “What Do College Students Think of Their Schools’ Reopening Plans. The article is worth reading, so the link is in the resource section, but here’s the quote that stopped me in my tracks.

“In my thirty-five years of protesting and reporting on protests, in this country and elsewhere, I have never seen this level of detailed, organized, and consistent mutual care. One of the popular call-and-response chants is “Who keeps us safe? / We keep us safe.” Another is “This is what community looks like.” Interdependence and shared responsibility are key elements of the protesters’ message and their identity.”

Or there was the lovely article in Inside Higher Ed in the column Confessions of a Community College Dean about his just-turned sixteen year old daughter. Also worth reading. The quote is in reference to the courteous behavior of his daughter and her friends.

“The combination of freer critique of public figures with more courtesy in personal life strikes me as entirely to the good. They seem to want a kinder society generally to match the kinder society they’ve built for themselves. I couldn’t agree more.”

Or in Seth Godin’s daily newsletter titled, “Undoing the toxic myth of exclusion and scarcity”.

“We don’t benefit from treating others poorly, we pay for it.”

For several years now, I’ve ended the day with a gratitude practice – listing three things I’m grateful for. I have to admit, it’s felt a bit repetitive lately, but  I keep after it because I know it’s a healthy practice and I have much to be grateful for. A regular gratitude practice asks us to pay attention and notice the good things in our lives. There’s plenty of reason to be worried, stressed or sad right now. But I suspect for most of us, if we pay attention there are many reasons to be grateful.

Today, already I’m grateful to three people who shared their thoughts in writing and lifted my spirits. I’m also grateful for each of you who take time to read this email in the midst of everything that claims your attention. My hope is always that it supports you and all that you are doing for your campuses, families, and friends.

Take care,


PS – Something I’m particularly grateful for these days is watching the Mama and Baby Hummingbirds in our backyard. I’ve never before seen a hummingbird nest and Baby H is now almost as big as Mama and is working on building wing muscles – we’ve seen Baby’s wings going so fast we can’t see them. He’ll be leaving the nest any day now. We hope we get to see it. I’ve included a pic of Mama on the nest and lunch time courtesy of Peter’s work with camera and telephoto lens.

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