When it comes to “love languages,” I believe quality time is one of the top ones for me to give and receive. Words of affirmation, however, are not very easy for me to give and while I don’t mind/like to receive them, they don’t top the simple gift of spending time with someone.
The exception for this might come with students.
Over the course of teaching, I have had some very grateful students. Students who would thank me daily as they left the classroom or who wrote a nice Christmas card or who simply wrote my name down in their weekly journal under the list of three things they were thankful for that week. Sweet and considerate, some students will even apologize for the bad behavior of other students.
Generally speaking, however, teenagers are not the most grateful human beings. They are prone to complain when school involves schoolwork or when assignments have a due date. Things they cannot change, things that are pretty reasonable, and things that are simply a course of life are all fodder for criticism or complaints. Writing in complete sentences is even viewed as a form of punishment instead of a basic habit of the literate. The longer I teach, the more I am open to their feedback while also aware that essentially never will all students be pleased at the exact same time.
Knowing this, it makes the compliments all the more sweet when they arrive, which is perhaps part of the genius of the teenager. Since my position as a teacher is at times compared to that of a jailer or a dictator, when I hear specific words of gratitude from students, it means far more than they could possibly know. Knowing that 98% of the time I won’t be thanked makes the other 2% really sweet. I don’t think teaching is the only job where it seems like the people you work most closely with are the least grateful, but it is the job with which I have the most experience.
Continue reading “When They Say Thank You”
Yesterday, the exit ramp I took on my way home was overflowing with traffic. The lane that veered off the interstate was filled nearly to the point of backing into the lanes of traffic that were continuing north. I was listening to some lovely music, pondering my day, and waiting for my turn. Despite the traffic, it was a peaceful moment.
Looking toward the west, I took in the beauty of the setting sun. Puffy cotton ball clouds blanketed the sky and slowly turned tropical shades despite the freezing temperatures outside. It was a delight to just gaze at the beauty I saw splashed generously across the sky. I couldn’t help but think that if it wasn’t for the obnoxious traffic, I wouldn’t have had the time to just ponder the sky. Closest to the horizon the sky was a fiery orange tinged with pink and further away the clouds took on a more somber hue.
It was cold outside. The sun’s setting seemed far too early. It had been a long day. There was still so much of the week to go. But, Lord, thank You for this moment of beauty, this moment of peace.
It made me think of something I had seen on Facebook one time regarding the snow. The post said, “If you choose not to find joy in the snow, you will have less joy in your life but the same amount of snow.” It is simple and yet a needed reminder that gratitude is the appropriate way to approach life. The traffic situation seemed to apply as well. If I choose to not find joy in traffic, I still have the traffic but not joy. So I looked up and saw something to be grateful for as I waited. God was casually displaying beautiful art during the evening commute. And I sought to soak it up this time instead of sink into my own world.
Continue reading “Traffic and cold, bless the Lord”
Three things I’m thankful for today:
-The song “Kings and Queens” by Mat Kearney–especially the line “Richer than Solomon with you by my side” as he expertly blends Scripture into his songs
-Weekend food leftovers to power me through the start of another week
-Books: owning them, reading them, and anticipating their arrival
There is something about gratitude that shifts the perspective. A few years ago, I was in the practice of writing down things for which I was thankful. They were often small, inconsequential things. Yet, even now, when I look back at those pages in my notebook, I smile at the glimpse into my heart and life during that time.
A random sampling from my gratitude journal:
3. Principal observation on a movie day
5. Peace after expressing frustration
29. Gusts of wind that make crunchy leaves trip down the road
37. The post-run feeling of health (following the post-run feeling of death)
59. Stretching out in bed at night
69. Eyes crinkled in laughter
80. Heavy hearts sharing the burden through conversation
133. Answered novenas in unhoped for ways
172. Solo supper with Grandma
176. My students telling me which gifts of the Holy Spirit they think I live out
241. Laughter with students instead of going insane
Some of the events I remember. For others, I’m not quite certain to what I was referring, but there is a beauty in seeing what moved my heart to express gratitude. Thankfulness is one of those things that doesn’t quite make sense if there is no God. Who else can I thank for the peace I feel after settling an argument? Or for the wind that causes leaves to swirl around on the ground? These would be mere observations or fleeting thoughts unless they could be expressed to someone responsible for them. Continue reading “Gratitude on a January Day”
The Lord has given me the gift of a tender heart. I don’t always view it as a gift, I don’t always want people to know about it, but on occassions I am reminded to be thankful for it. Now this sensitivity doesn’t mean I cry when I see a dead deer and worry about Bambi. It also doesn’t mean that I sob over soap operas and run to see every chick flick in theaters.
What it does mean is that I nearly cried the other night when I saw a gorgeous sunset. It means I cannot read “A Child Called It” because I feel physically sick and begin to feel depressed. My sister brought the book home from the library several years ago and I tried to read part of it. The story focuses on the abuse a young boy endures at the hands of his mother. I feel sick just thinking about the way I felt when I read the first pages. This sensitive heart causes me to remember things people said or did years ago that they probably didn’t intend to be lasered into my memory. It meant that I had to will myself to not cry when my principal was talking to me about how I handled a situation last year. He wasn’t even angry or yelling at me but I had to keep willing myself to not let the tears fall. “Trish. You cannot cry. You are an adult.” So I managed to not cry…until he left the room. Then I sobbed. This tender heart causes me to cry each time I open it up a little in spiritual direction. I plan to high-5 Father the first time I manage to walk out of there without having shed tears. This tender heart causes me to long for Heaven as though I have been homesick my entire life.
Recently a man who had worked with my dad died due to brain cancer. He kept a blog about the journey he was making with the cancer. Instead of becoming bitter and cynical or blaming God, he called his cancer “the gift.” I didn’t really know him, but I loved seeing him at the different Masses around town. As I read through some of his blog entries, I cried. He writes about how he sees God each day and encouraged people to look for God wherever they were. I think of the family he leaves behind and I mourn for them. Yet I also think (though I don’t intend to minimize their pain) about what a gift all of it actually could be for them. To know that you will be dying and soon. It would make me live each day to the full.
But shouldn’t I already be doing that? Why is it that the fear of death suddenly makes us desire to live? St. Irenaeus said, “The glory of God is man fully alive.” I want to be fully alive. Sometimes it takes a sunset to wake me from my stupor. Or the feeling of holding a beautiful niece in my arms as she squirms and smiles. Every now and then I am just struck by reality–the grass is really green or the sky seems so clear. Suddenly I can see and I realize how blind I let myself become
Lord, help me to embrace this tender heart. This heart that causes tears to well up in my eyes at inconvenient times and yet allows me to see a beauty that is perhaps overlooked. Above all, help me to place my tender heart within the wound of Your Sacred Heart. Only there is it truly safe, only there can she find rest. Thank You, Lord, for this gift called life—the challenges, the heartaches, the joys, the blessings, the experiences of You that reaffirm that all of this has a purpose. Thank You, Lord. Amen.