By: Dani Langevin – January 2013
I challenge you, America! I
t is the same challenge I have already offered up to my students and a new challenge that will be given to them within the coming week. I made a vow last summer that I would teach my students not just the required curriculum, but I would also teach them the benefits of gratitude and giving. I began the Attitude of Gratitude project.
It began with a discussion of what it means to be grateful. We study Buddhism in my four eighth grade classes. Buddha wanted to end suffering. He said that the only way to end suffering is to give up all worldly desires. Imagine that. It makes sense. My students and I discussed how every time we want some worldly desire, be it money, a new car, cell phone, clothes or other tangible item and we don’t receive we lament on the loss of something we had never had in the first place. Imagine being happy with what you already had. Be thankful for the old cell phone, for your aging dented car that still works, for the small amount of cash in your pocket. If we just focused on being grateful for what we already possess then we are the richest people in the world.
Instead of having the usual bulletin board in my classroom that depicted the events of history covered throughout the school year, I recovered it with a blank wall and labeled it “The Wall of Gratitude”.
Over the next several weeks students brought in pictures of things that they were grateful for and tacked them onto the wall. Soon, the pictures spilled off of the actual bulletin board and onto the walls. There were pictures of everything they were grateful for like paper for writing, utensils for eating, pets, parents, siblings, fingers, clothes-you name it, it’s up there. It’s a wonderfully amazing collage of literally thousands of things that my students are grateful for.
The next step to my Attitude of Gratitude project was to send letters out into the community to random or familiar people telling them about our project and asking them to respond with things that they are grateful for. After a few weeks, the letters began to come in. We received a letter from a WWII Vet who was grateful for the American flag because its symbol kept him alive during the war. We received a letter from someone who survived cancer, from a dancer who was grateful for her legs and from grandparents who were grateful for their seven grandchildren. It was incredible. The students loved it so much that they want to send out more letters of gratitude this New Year.
I began a wikispace for students to post pictures of more things that they are grateful for and periodically, they add to the growing list. I added a new page to my wikispace. It is called 26 Acts of Random Kindness. My new challenge to my students is to commit 26 acts of random kindness no matter how long it takes. The acts can be as small as holding open a door for a stranger or as big as starting a program to help those in need. Every time they commit a random act of kindness they are to post it on the ‘Kindness’ page on my wiki. I can’t wait to see what these young American citizens will do. If you want to see for yourself, go to www.attitudeofgratitude.wikispaces.com.
I am not just challenging my one hundred students this year to express and feel real gratitude for what they already have in their lives and to commit 26 acts of random kindness, I challenge ALL of you. Every American citizen, every human being that has been blessed to grace this earth! I challenge you to stop wanting more. I dare you to be happy with what you have. For it is true, “Whatever you appreciate and give thanks for will increase in your life.” I dare you to be happy and help others. I ask that you rise up to the challenge of committing 26 random acts of kindness and passing on that challenge to your friends, family and coworkers. Can you imagine what the world would be like if we all did this? Are you up for the challenge?