Gratitude in Times of Crisis

Instead of spending time making and breaking New Year’s resolutions, I switched my approach a few years ago to focus my attention on creating new patterns in my thoughts. Feeling, acknowledging and expressing gratitude seemed like the perfect place to start. It worked so well for me personally that I shared the practice of gratitude with the CGS Community. For the past 6 years, the school has maintained a Gratitude Jar. It is a place for students, staff, parents and visitors to deposit little notes outlining what they are feeling particularly grateful for. Every January we empty the jar, read and compile a list of entries that are then shared in a Principal’s Message. Each year there has been so much to be grateful for and it is always so heartwarming to see it all documented.

I have always tried to live a life of gratitude and I believe that I am a pretty grateful person. I came to a big realization last Spring, however, that hit me like a ton of bricks. Being grateful is really not that difficult when we have a lot to be grateful for, but what about in times of crisis and despair, when our focus is anywhere and everywhere but on gratitude? When life is grand, being thankful is really not that hard, but when life throws a curveball? Not so much!

Last Spring we all faced a situation we have never seen or experienced before. COVID-19 shut down our jobs, our schools and our entire country. It put incredible stress on everyone. The worries we had, although different from one another, were equally all-consuming. It robbed us of everything familiar and stable and threw us all for a big giant loop! As I struggled to keep our school community alive, I have to admit that I lost my way with the whole gratitude thing. I was too busy inventing and re-inventing while operating on very little sleep. My nervous system was in a constant heightened state. I was doing what I thought was the best I could until my son pointed out that I really needed to stop and smell the roses and practice what I preach. He wasn’t harsh about it but he gently asked one day, “Mom how are your gratitude notes going these days?” Oops!  This reminder was just what I needed to recalibrate, refocus and recharge. It truly made all the difference.

During moments of crisis, such as we all faced when COVID-19 hit, a grateful perspective is critical to sustain our positive attitude. We really need gratitude to heal, to energize and to bring us hope. We have all been doing what we can to stay healthy, from frequent hand washing to social distancing and wearing masks, but we can’t forget that making room for gratitude in our lives also plays a very important role in lowering our stress levels. Lower stress levels boost our immune system and make our bodies and minds stronger and more virus resistant.

As difficult as this time has been for everyone, there are still things to be grateful for. For some, COVID-19 has brought opportunities to slow down, others have had important moments of reconnection with friends and family. Over the past few months, many people have also cultivated an enhanced appreciation for the beauty of nature and time spent outdoors. Recognizing our increased resilience and strength of spirit has been eye-opening. This time has given us all reminders that there is joy to be found in some of the most simple things – pausing and feeling grateful is truly the secret to a more balanced life.

This weekend, as we responsibly celebrate Thanksgiving, let’s remember the words of W.J. Cameron, “But a thankful heart hath a continual feast.” Feast on my friends, we will get through this!

My Best,

Marie Bates
Principal & Co-Founder
Children’s Garden School