Tis the season of gratitude and thanksgiving, and the video below had me thinking about what it means to be grateful.
Have you ever heard the saying, “You started at third base but you thought you hit a home run?” The idea is that sure you are successful, you hit a home run, but it was due to the advantages you had as much as it was due to the way you hit the ball. After all, you started at third base.
The video below illustrates the idea of social and economic advantage and how these advantages can impact chances for future success. It’s undeniable that certain starting points in life can create greater opportunities for success.
I think this video could be a great launching point for discussions with students. There is plenty to think about and even to critique. It’s powerful, but there are plenty of opportunities for critical thinking.
So who should be grateful in this video? Some might say the kids with the most advantages. They have more to start with than the others after all. It’s statistically true that people with those advantages tend to be more successful on average than those who do not.
But here’s the thing about gratitude, it should not be dependent only on havingmore or even having enough. Gratitude is a state of mind that is available to all of us all of the time.
After all, if you aren’t grateful for what you have now, what makes you think you would be grateful if you had more? Unless you make a choice to be grateful in all things, how will it ever be enough?
It’s very difficult to adopt this mindset in our consumer driven culture. Even in the video, the end goal is a $100 bill. We are constantly reminded of what we don’t have. But life is not about racing past someone else to win. It’s not about having the most money or toys.
Life has far more to offer than economic success. Some of the poorest people in the world live the most meaningful, happiest lives. They are finding joy in life in spite of having very little material wealth. Every day presents its blessings or burdens. We choose our focus.
Everyone has challenges in life and everyone has opportunities. Sure, some have more challenges and some have less, but everyone has the opportunity to choose two things: thoughts and actions.
Will you choose to focus on your blessings or your burdens? Will you choose actions that lead to blessings or ones that lead to burdens?
Stephen Covey wrote, “I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.”
Ultimately, I believe this is true. We can rise above circumstances, eventually. It may not happen as fast as we’d like. There are many stories of people who have risen above, people who are overcomers. There are people who have overcome terrible hardships and horrific circumstances, even abuse and neglect. If it is true for some, why can’t it be true for all?
For all the problems we have in this country, there are still incredible opportunities, even if the deck is stacked against some more than others. Are there inequities? Absolutely. Should we be satisfied with a system that works against some? Absolutely not. But there are also tremendous opportunities for those who choose to rise above.
We need to help all students learn to be grateful even in the midst of challenges. Why? The research is clear (Harvard Health):
Gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.
Gratitude is an empowering state of mind. It helps us realize that we have blessings in our life. It also helps us offer blessings into the lives of others.
There may be difficulties and disparities in our world. There always have been injustices and as long a human being are running this planet, that will probably continue to be true.
I would summarize my response to the video I shared with two questions:
1. Who will you lift up?
2. What will you rise above?
Who will you lift up? You have gifts to give. You can be hope and help to someone else. You can lift up someone who might need a helping hand.
What will you rise above? There will be challenges. There will be obstacles. But you have everything you need to be great. Just keep moving in the direction of your dreams.