Last year at this time Rev. Daniel R. Heischman, Executive Director of the National Association of Episcopal Schools wrote to our schools about what it means to live in gratitude. At this joyful and poignant time of Thanksgiving, I share his opening two paragraphs with you as a reminder of what we stand for in our Episcopal Schools.
"In his remarks to school heads at the 2016 Biennial Conference, David Coleman, President of the College Board, spoke of the cultivation of grace and gratitude as one of five distinctive contributions that religiously-based schools can make to the education of students. Coleman then observed that many college admissions people note the absence of gratitude among today's young people. As I thought about that observation, I wondered: how might we notice that absence of gratitude in any human being?
Would it be the absence of saying, "Thank you?" Would chronic stress or anxiety serve to inhibit it? Would it be connected to our contemporary focus on what we lack, as opposed to what we have? Or would it stem from an increasingly secular orientation to life, where grace might seem to be unacknowledged and where references to God, the source of our blessings, seem in short supply?"
In so many ways the presence or absence of gratitude is all about a basic orientation to life, seen in how we treat others, deal with setbacks, and keep life's joys and travails in perspective.
When Bill Perkins spoke in chapel last Thursday, he reminded us of how our gratitude can stem from an awareness that all of the gifts and blessings we have to share have already been shared with us by God. It was a heartfelt message that he navigated skillfully for our student age range, and I think our community left with a better sense for how important it is to be thankful and to express it whenever we can.
At Special Friends' Day this morning, our young people did a great job of sharing their sense of gratitude in their songs and in the chapel service, and I am thankful for Kathy Hanna, Kathy DeLong, and Ed Ryan who led us in our celebration. Throughout the morning our faculty and students did a great job of engaging our guests and making them feel special.
As Dan Heischman reminded us, gratitude is seen when we "rejoice in the accomplishments of others, take friendship seriously, and radiate calmness, dignity, and respect for those we encounter." Gratitude is seen in a belief that life is good, which makes us deeply aware of what we have in life.
How can we assess the presence or absence of gratitude in our own life? This holiday season let's seek to affirm its presence and heed our second graders' choral message last week in chapel and say, "Thanks a Lot."
The faculty and staff of St. Anne's wish you a very happy Thanksgiving, full of a sense of gratitude for our many blessings in life.
Peter C. Thayer
Head of School