2020 marked our 6th year of maintaining a Gratitude Jar at CGS. It has been a wonderful place where students, staff, parents and visitors are given the opportunity to reflect on all the good in their lives. It is a place to bring gratitude to life by taking the time to write it down.
Practicing gratitude means different things to different people. To some, it is pausing to notice everything we have. To others, it is cherishing every waking moment and recognizing the precious nature of life itself. Some people see gratitude as finding peace in what we have and indeed even in what we don’t have. Whatever form gratitude may take, there is no doubt that practicing gratitude brings joy, satisfaction and wellness to our lives, unlike anything else we may do. This has particularly proven true during the unprecedented times we have been living through this past year.
The first few days back at school after the Christmas Break have traditionally been the time when I empty out the Gratitude Jar. I read, count and compile a list of all the entries made during the previous calendar year and then report back to the school community. The beginning of this school term of course was a little different for all of us so, as our first month of a new year comes to a close, I am just now finding the time to continue this tradition which has become so meaningful for me.
During 2019, CGS recorded a whopping 240 entries in our Gratitude Jar. 2020 was a different year though, where our ability to submit our notes of gratitude was abruptly disrupted by school closures in the Spring. We resumed our Gratitude Jar, to the best of our ability, in the Fall but it was difficult. The students were not freely coming in and out of the office as they normally would be. Given the challenges of our Covid-19 lives, we decided to change up our Gratitude Jar in October and it was emptied of its contents and turned into our We Can Do Hard Things Jar. Considering that the 2020 Gratitude Jar had only a few short months to gain momentum, I am over the moon pleased to report that I had 213 entries to sift through. WOW! We were no doubt on track to hit an all-time record, had we had a “normal” school year.
I would love to share all the entries with you but of course, that is impossible. I can tell you that submissions came from all of our students, from Early Start to Grade 3, and from staff and parents. They expressed gratitude for a variety of things including family (Mommy, Mama, Daddy, Dada, sisters, brothers and cousins) and friends that were kind, helpful and supportive. There were others in their lives to appreciate too like doctors, pets, bus drivers, leaders and even Jesus. There was a big focus on the school experience with 53 entries all about their days at CGS including challenges, adventures, Art classes, lunchtime, House Games, Clubs, Library time, Pancake Breakfast, and even the Early Start cots. More than one student expressed gratitude for the Gratitude Jar itself! The CGS Staff were thanked 54 times and words like kind, understanding, amazing, calm, entertaining and the best, were used more than once. As a community, we were also grateful for things like the promise of a New Year, laughter, peace, summer weather, sledding in the snow, camps and our country. Several entries read “I am grateful for everything!”. I could go on and on but let’s finish off with two of my favourites, “I am grateful for myself” and “I am grateful for who I am!”. This says so much to me about our young students.
Our Gratitude practice has been a huge success at CGS and we have only stopped it temporarily while we concentrate on our We Can Do Hard Things theme. The CGS Gratitude Jar will be back. In the meantime, can I encourage you all to try this very simple practice at home for the next while? We really do learn a great deal about our children, and even ourselves, by writing down the things we have to be grateful for. At times it can be hard to see, especially through the thick fog of a pandemic, but the things to be grateful for are there, we just need to take the time to find them.
With Gratitude for all of you,
Co-founder & Principal
Children’s Garden School