By Ashley Lodato
This is the time of year when I usually get all preachy about gratitude. And as I am a creature of habit, this year is no different. Consider yourself warned.
As I contemplated the gratitude column’s content over the past few days, I indulged in a little ungratefulness about my self-imposed requirement to write about thankfulness. Coupled with pre-emptive exhaustion thinking about the number of big meals to prepare this week, I started feel downright grumbly, even — dare I say it? — begrudging.
But as I talked with others about my whiny, privileged resentment over feeling compelled to compose something meaningful and fresh about gratitude, I was reminded that gratitude is not a sentiment intended to be doled out strategically at hallmark moments, but instead something we can — and should — practice daily.
There’s the big stuff, of course — the stuff that should never be taken for granted: family, health, education, human rights, clean air and water. If you’re lucky enough to have these things, gratitude should be an intentional contentment underlying your daily existence. Then there are the unexpected treasures: a rewarding friendship, a bit of hope, a fresh start. Gratitude blooms when life offers you one of these gifts.
But sometimes gratitude strikes you after the fact, a fierce roaring train of a thing that knocks you off balance, and you realize it has been buttressing you all along and you just didn’t recognize it until you articulated it. Bam! That’s gratitude, you suddenly realize. And that’s what happened to me recently when I made a conscious connection between kids in this valley and the many adults who are helping to raise them.
From school teachers to music and dance teachers, from drama coaches to sports coaches, from mentors to ministers, to the elder next door who is teaching the neighborhood girls to cook and sew, this valley is full of adults who are investing in kids. They’re giving them time and energy, they’re passing along skills both traditional and modern, they’re devoting themselves to kids’ fitness and technique, they’re nurturing kids’ courage and confidence. They’re empowering kids to be responsible and accountable, they’re challenging kids to become the best version of themselves, and they’re role-modeling what it means to be a positive force in society.
I’ve always heard the phrase “It takes a village to raise a child,” and I’d always put this in the context of the other moms and families who were part of my support network when my kids were young. But my understanding of the village metaphor is evolving, as my kids mature and I experience anew this village’s — this valley’s — exquisite capacity to provide. Bam! That’s gratitude.