Category Archives: Gratitude

A Thanksgiving Tradition: three things of joy

Sometimes family traditions have a way of slipping through the cracks of everyday life. My family’s Thanksgiving tradition usually began at the beginning of November.  Each evening over dinner, we would all share three things we were thankful for and then tie one red bow for each thing.  Eventually these bows adorned our Christmas tree.  So on November 18th, I emailed my kids (they don’t live at home anymore) and husband with my three things for the day and asked them to do the same through the end of the month.

As a mom, I’m the one who usually gets the traditions rolling. I’ve come to learn that things don’t need to be perfect nor do we need to do everything the way we once did to find value in our traditions.  Traditions are about connections.  They can morph a little, but returning to our traditions brings us closer together.

For more info the “three things” tradition, check out my post https://theadvantagepoint.wordpress.com/2010/12/11/a-holiday-challenge/

This week:  Review your traditions. Are there some that need to be nurtured?

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Overcoming the Odds to Graduate

“The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create, to overcome, to endure, to transform, to love and to be greater than our suffering.”~~Ben Okri

I recently found myself at the graduation ceremony for Prologue’s alternative schools in Chicago.  To be honest, I really didn’t want to go and how I got there is another story, but I soon realized that I was amongst a very special group of young people.  The Prologue schools are primarily for students 18 to 24 years old who have dropped out of high school. Instead of getting a GED they attend a Prologue school to get a high school education.

I have attended many high school graduations, but have never been to one anything like this. My two sons graduated from Walter Payton College Prep, a topped ranked school in Illinois.  Payton is filled with students considered to be academic achievers.  In contrast, this graduation was for students that few believed would ever even achieve a high school diploma or succeed in life.   The graduation was in the Peoples Church on Lawrence Avenue.  At night the Peoples Church becomes a homeless shelter; during the day community events and church services are held there. Security guards circled the premises to keep out anyone without an invitation.  The audience was rowdy and somewhat disruptive, but the graduates attentive and respectful.  It didn’t take me long to discover that I was witnessing an amazing event.  I found myself at one of the most moving graduations I have ever attended; even watching my own sons graduate did not elicit as many tears for me as this graduation did.

Instead of having guest speakers, six students spoke. Of the six, five cried as they gave their speech.  They cried tears of joy and tears of thankfulness as they shared their stories.  There was the young man whose mom died when he was 13.  With her death, he dropped out of school and lived on the streets.  His grandmother took him in and he went back to school; then at 15 his grandmother died.  Once again, he spent several years living on the streets.  Eventually with hard work, determination and an amazing staff he graduated.

A petite 20 year old woman also received her diploma that day.  She dropped out of school at 15.  Her mother who had been helping raise her children, became gravely ill and needed her help.  She spent the next four years caring for her mother and her children.  Never letting go of her dream, at 19, she enrolled in one of the Prologue schools and stood before us, full of anticipation of achieving her next goal—a college education. The only speaker who did not cry was a young man who dropped out of high school six different times.  He said, “I was trouble, and no one believed I would ever do this. For a long time I didn’t believe I could do this.”   Now at 22, he received his high school diploma.

One hundred students graduated that day. All these students were dropouts that few believed had any potential to succeed.  Four students of the 100 received full rides to college.  One young man received a full ride to four different universities, one of them being Princeton.  He was still deciding were he would attend.

How did these young people from seemingly hopeless situations succeed?  I believe there were three key ingredients that helped them on their path.  First, they had a goal…a dream to graduate from school and improve their lives.  But a dream alone is not enough.  They had to do the hard work required, the action needed to graduate. They had to work and study, even when the environment around them made it nearly impossible. The third ingredient to their success was they had mentors, especially at the school, that believed in them and their dreams and helped guide them on their path.  These students are a testament to the possibility of overcoming great odds.  Having the privilege to witness their achievement was a great gift for me.

This week:  Put your struggles in perspective and remember if these graduates overcame their struggles, so can you. Have your dream, take the required action, and find people who support and mentor you on your journey.

 

A Holiday Challenge

“Gratitude is the memory of the heart.” — Jean Baptiste Massieu

When my children were little as a way to embrace the spirit of the season, each day, we would all share three things we were thankful for and tie three red bows.  Eventually these bows adorned our Christmas tree. Not having young children at home anymore I called my college students in the beginning of November and asked them to email three things each day.  When I asked my husband, he agreed but balked about doing it every day.  His protesting didn’t last long.  Everyone emailed three things each day to each other.  It gave us all a window into each other’s lives that we don’t always get to see.  I went to the computer each morning excited to see what would be revealed.  Here’s a small sample of some of our thanks.

  1. Dad putting me in dance
  2. The Rockies
  3. Being with Freckles during her last season.
  4. Putting on the winter scarf
  5. A mother who wants to keep a family scattered across the country together via email
  6. My new rollerblades that I got for five dollars at the thrift store
  7. Playing hockey tonight
  8. Blackhawks on TV
  9. The smell of fall in the air
  10. 70 degrees in November
  11. The kids on the block
  12. Billy’s stint selling Cutco – without it I would never have owned Cutco knives!
  13. I actually like my classes
  14. Potato leek soup in about an hour and the new potato peeler
  15. Hot cider
  16. Visits and scrabble with Granny

This month, I asked my family to email each other acts of kindness.  This also is similar to something we did when they were younger that produced more bows on our Christmas tree.  I’ve challenged my college students to email their acts of kindness and my husband and I will do the same.   My challenge to my readers is to record or acknowledge each day an act of kindness.  Small acts are welcome and sometimes have a greater impact than you will ever know.  I kind word, a smile, opening the door for a stranger…these things all can make a difference.   If you take the challenge, come back here and comment and let me know how it goes.

This week:  Join the Holiday Kindness Challenge

 

Peace and Blessings,

Mary Jo

Moments of Joy

“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. ” — Henry David Thoreau

As Thanksgivings go….this year wasn’t perfect or magical, but it had its moments.  I loved…

  • Lounging until 9:30 am, with a great cup of coffee and a trashy New York Times best seller;
  • Seeing my college freshman walk through the airport gate;
  • Having a delicious meal waiting for us, even if it was reheated. Dinner was at 4pm, but we my son’s flight didn’t come in until 5pm.

We all have big things in our life to be thankful for…but it’s the little moments that bring blessings into our days.   As we speed through the season ahead, look for the magic in the moments.   You’ll surely have something to be thankful for!

This Week: Embrace the small moments with gratitude.

Peace and Blessings,

Mary Jo