Last year, my family started a new tradition: The Thankfulness Jar. We have small slips of colored paper sitting around the house, and you can write down anything you are thankful for and put it into a vase. After dinner on Thanksgiving, we read them all out loud. The rule is that you aren’t allowed to make fun of anyone for what they wrote, but we have at least one smallish family member who struggles with that rule. That may or may not also be the same person who thinks it is a competition to see who can put the most slips into the vase. We’re working on it.
This year, I’ve been trying to expand this new tradition outward. I took some slips to the class I teach and had them each take one. I told them they could hold onto the slip or put it into my basket and I would send out a message about them on Thanksgiving. Out of a class of 25 students, I had 20 slips of paper. This evening I recorded a video of me reading them and trying my best to keep them anonymous, and I’ve posted it to Blackboard for them.
I’m glad I read the slips beforehand, because a couple of them nearly moved me to tears. Many were thankful for family, several for friends, education, health, a job. One person was able to help some family members through a rough time and was thankful for the opportunity to see them now standing on their own and to know that she helped. One slip said the person was a cancer survivor and so was thankful for health, medicine, and God.
The final one was from someone who was just happy to be alive. The slip said “I am still alive!! Suicide attempt in (year)”. That one hit me on a couple of levels. I have worked with a few families at the hospital this year when patient had been brought in for suicide attempts. It’s hard to watch. And to know that one of my students has gone through that…it’s hard to swallow.
But that’s part of why I do both of my jobs. I work at the hospital to help comfort people while they are hurting, and I teach teachers to help prepare them for something similar. We all have someone (sometimes many someones) we depend on. But we are probably all also a person who someone else depends on. It’s hard to know who you may influence throughout your life. How many of my students will be the one caring person who a student turns to when they feel they have nothing left? How many of my students will mentor a young person who feels they cannot go on? Maybe none of them. Maybe several of them. If only one, then this has still been a worthwhile job.
I hope you have all had a Happy Thanksgiving. I hope your stomach and your heart are full as we head into the end of the year and all of the many potential stressors that may include. I hope you all have someone to love. Be kind to one another, because it makes a difference.