Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Giving Thanks

Please forgive the possible cheesiness of this blog entry's title.  As we approach this particular holiday, I'd like to share a couple of thoughts I have every year at this time and a personal perspective.  First is that I am thankful for my health and happiness along with the people in my life.  I am also thankful for having a full-time job that I love and am happy to go to nearly every day and work with teenagers who benefit from my work.  I live in arguably the most gorgeous part of the nation near both mountains and the ocean.  I am also thankful for having the opportunity to be a part of this blog and working with the tremendously talented, intelligent and committed colleagues with whom I work with on this endeavor.

However, I do not "celebrate" Thanksgiving.  Every year, I have the same discussion with my various classes--"what are you doing for Thanksgiving?"  My reply is that I do not celebrate that national holiday.  The first response is that they are aghast with horror that I could possibly not celebrate any and every potential holiday that is available.  I explain that I am thankful for all the positives and challenges in my life on a daily basis and that  I do not need a date that someone else gives me to be thankful and grateful (and that I do not endorse or celebrate genocide, whether intentional or not).  I also do not celebrate my birthday--I do for others, but mine holds no special place in my heart.  I give gifts to myself and the people I care about throughout the year when I think the time is right.  For those who know me well, they "get" me and understand.  No worries. 
I find that a daily "thanksgiving" makes me more aware and appreciative of all I have and a peace at a deeper level.  With this daily attitude, I find that I am nicer, more forgiving, and more loving.  I do not appreciate just the larger, grand aspects of life.  I am grateful for the small things, like the smile of the cashier at the grocery store, the wave of a person letting me go in traffic, a student thanking me for helping, as well as waking up to the awareness that I have more than everything I need to live a happy life.   I look around at the people in Haiti, the Sudan, Afghanistan, and in other places around the world and re-realize that I have a tremendously fortunate existence.  I may complain from time to time, but my focus is generally upon the positives which, in turn, reduces my ability to be angry and resentful.

After our discussions, my students seem to acknowledge the merit of my choice not to eat turkey and spend time with my family (the closest is 2000 miles away).  I spend the time doing the things that I want to do--they are private and personal.  Ultimately, they may be confused or disagree with my choices, but they are my choices, not anyone else's.  I am comfortable with that.

If you'd like some good reading to raise your spirits, check out Louis Schmier's Random Thoughts.   You will find either inspiration there.  Here is another blog extolling the virtues of being actively thankful.

During this brief time away from the classroom, I wish you and yours a wonderful holiday weekend.  May you have all the free time, football, turkey, family, food, hugs, and smiles you can handle.  Make it a tremendous weekend and thanks to you all for reading our blog.

Chuck Schallhorn

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