Giving Thanks

November 19 2013


I’m a person who really appreciates the Thanksgiving holiday. Not only for the turkey and fixings, but because my greater focus is on gratitude and taking time to reflect on all that I have to be grateful for. It’s easy to lose sight of gratitude in the fast paced, 24-hour news cycle we live with every day.

Gratitude is a gift, and when we express it easily and effortlessly in our daily lives, it’s the gift “that keeps on giving”. Gratitude is also a practice, and like exercise, if done consistently it improves our mental and physical health and contributes significantly to our overall sense of well-being and happiness.

As the Executive Director of a not-for-profit organization, whose mission to is “wake up courage” and create safer schools and communities, I have found that gratitude is a requirement for being successful and staying viable. It also fuels my hope and optimism about the future.

Every day I’m grateful for the thousands of young people across this country who are speaking up when they encounter bullying, cyberbullying and other mean-spirited behavior in their schools and neighborhoods. In more than 1,400 schools we have equipped diverse student leaders with the support, training and opportunities to be “upstanders” and “change-agents”.

And every day these Safe School Ambassadors are changing their world by supporting fellow students who otherwise might be isolated or excluded by their peers; every day they’re de-escalating tensions between classmates who may be considering doing harm to each other; and every day they’re taking actions to resolve differences between students peacefully.

By committing these acts of courage, they are sending forth a powerful message, a message that the “new normal” is not to stand by and do nothing, but rather to speak up and do the right thing. Their actions are the social vaccine that can eradicate the bullying virus in all its forms. Young people who speak up are the best solution for creating a more peaceful school, community and world. It’s like a rock in the pond rippling out, each one teaching one, each one reaching one, until we’ve achieved the “tipping point”. When we get there, we will be living from a new social norm, one where it’s cooler to be kind than it is to be cruel.

So as we get ready to gather together with family, in friendship and in community, let’s remember to express our gratitude and our own courage. And let’s be thankful for the courage displayed by our young people as they create, one small action at a time, a kinder, more supportive culture which will lead to a more peaceful future for us all.

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