By Julia Maher ’23
It is that time of year again—the time in which we are called to express gratitude for all of the gifts in our lives. Thanksgiving is an easy time for us to practice gratitude because we are motivated by the participation of other people. When we are surrounded by other people who are expressing gratitude, it no longer seems like a burdensome task, but more of a community activity. Taking a pause in our lives to express gratitude does not seem like a barrier to our personal success; instead, a sense of community arises from the collective practice of gratitude.
Thanksgiving, however, occurs only one day per year. Different families have different Thanksgiving traditions, but some of them may have conversations at the Thanksgiving table about their gratitude. Although this is a common and potentially rewarding tradition, it is easy to simply go through the motions of stating our blessings without truly feeling grateful. I know from personal experience that I grew up doing this and I never felt like I truly appreciated my blessings and privileges. Although some of us are raised to associate gratitude with Thanksgiving almost exclusively, gratitude should have a place in our daily lives, not merely on one holiday. Actively practicing gratitude once a year is simply not enough because it becomes more of a chore than a practice that is fully embraced.
One possible route to adding a gratitude practice to daily life is to practice some sort of spirituality. For others, this may manifest itself in religion, but for some people, it can be mindfulness or meditation. Anything that allows a person to connect their mind, body, and soul can help them assess their personal values and, therefore, practice gratitude more eloquently and more often. An easy way to add a gratitude practice to a daily routine is to participate in meditation once a day. There are many smartphone applications that can assist with this, especially for beginners who find it difficult and uncomfortable to remain still for an extended period of time. Although meditation sounds like a difficult, boring, and interminable chore, it is actually abundant and rewarding.
We are incredibly fortunate as the Holy Cross community, although sometimes we are not actively aware of our blessings and privileges. We must practice gratitude more often, both on our own time and also as a community. Instead of merely practicing gratitude during Thanksgiving, we should do it every day. We should emphasize giving thanks for the privileges we have at Holy Cross and, also, should organize events to facilitate gratitude practices. Sometimes simply pausing and looking around can help us realize how lucky we are and how much we may take our privileges for granted.