Boundless Gratitude

I live in a sports-watching home.

So it is that the boys and I (and Mollie on occasion) interface with a fairly narrow band of advertisers.


In March, during the NCAA tournament, an ad dubbed “Real Winners Care” aired repeatedly for the Dove Men product line. Images from the commercial captured athletes, pushed beyond their physical and mental limits, receiving aid from a competitor or teammate.

Beyond its suitability for airing during March Madness, one of America’s most revered annual sporting events, Dove’s marketing serves a purpose for my final First Monday.

As the month of May begins most of us – parents, faculty & staff, and especially our students – feel like the athletes in the ad look! The “final lap” of the nine-month race of the school year has begun. We have, as cliché-spouting announcers love to say, “left it all out there” in our respective quests. We will reach the final day of school unaided (we hope!), but can relate to the sense of depletion captured in the images of these athletes.

Indeed, I also appreciate how the commercial casts a final hue on the theme which has pervaded my writing to you and chapel talks to the students this year: boundless thinking and acting.

The impactful people and institutions I know and respect possess boundless dispositions. Their mindsets consistently uphold hope, possibility and opportunity over despair, helplessness and cynicism. As a result, these individuals and organizations consistently move forward with energy, conviction and perseverance.

In this space since August, I have highlighted how our programs forge bold leaders who see around and through obstacles and build bridges across lines of divide (September, March). I’ve profiled frontier-exploring young alumni constructing fulfilling lives (November, February). I’ve related how initiatives of ours, Parish Connect and ParishBridge, transcend the boundaries of the campus to help our alumni and seniors, respectively, spawn powerful networks. And I’ve explained Parish’s own challenger’s quest (April). By profiling those who influence us (October), I’ve sought to include you as we explore new frontiers in education where we reimagine how today’s schools might best equip our children to thrive in tomorrow’s complex world while keeping their spirits and love of learning fully intact.

Indeed, the enthusiastic pursuit of such audacious aspirations can leave even the heartiest quester ragged and stumbling!

So, where do bold leaders and boundless thinkers turn for reprieve and restoration?

Well, summer vacation certainly doesn’t hurt!

But I have also learned an important lesson this year. When taxed by the effort required to break new ground or staggered by the unexpected body blows life inevitably deals us, a foolproof replenishing agent exists: gratitude.

In December, I wrote of the research of Martin Seligman, the founder of the field of positive psychology. He and his colleagues have demonstrated that “gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”

In my experience, if practiced regularly, gratitude expressed for what has transpired, what is and what may be suppresses anxiety, assuages disappointment, and amplifies boundless thinking.

So as the school year’s final month dawns, and with it comes the exhaustion borne of a full investment of our efforts, the time to drink from the reservoir of gratitude has arrived. Our community will engage in several traditions designed to thank faculty and staff for time served; to recognize volunteers for their dedication to this place; and to model for and instruct our students on how they can communicate heartfelt thanks.

How does your school community use May as a month to teach and demonstrate boundless gratitude?

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