La Reconnaissance: Practicing gratitude in a time of thanks

The bulletin board on 1st floor of St. Mary's Hall celebrates thankfulness.

The bulletin board on 1 floor of St. Mary’s Hall celebrates thankfulness.

Gratitude; in French, it means “la reconnaissance,” which, in the words of Francine Conley, a French and TRW professor, “implies a kind of knowing, but knowing again.”

At this time of the year, it is easy to wish for things we are without. It is the uncomfortable time when the weather gets colder, classes slowly lead up to the dreaded finals, Thanksgiving does not seem to get any closer with the days rolling on-the list goes on. Being grateful is easy when we feel the world is wrapped around our fingers, but not so much when we feel like the world is wrapping around our throat, choking us with its constant reminders of suffering, mother nature, non-enjoyable tasks and the big paper we have been putting off.

In college, one is almost pushed to want more; to want more for herself, to want more for her future, to want more out of classes, to want more food, to want more friends, etc. In the words of Oprah Winfrey, “be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” This is where the “knowing again” from the French version of gratitude comes in. We must appreciate again what has been taken for granted for too long. For example:

Free time.
The fact that you’re alive and breathing.
The mornings you can sleep in. If you aren’t able to sleep in often, be thankful you have a purpose to get up.
Shoes on your feet.
Home-cooked meals.
You’re able to read this.
Good coffee.
Food which is easily accessible.
Movie marathons.
Music which makes you feel happier.
Money in your bank account.
Good hair days.
Great conversations.
Cozy pajamas.
People who remember your name/spell your name right.
Uncontrollable laughter.

Students expressed gratitude in SMH 1st floor bulletin board.

Students expressed gratitude on St. Mary’s Hall 1st floor bulletin board.

There are so many things each of us have to be thankful for. I often think of the quote, “Someone is happier with less than what you have.” At St. Kate’s we have a focus on justice. Some people have nothing. Nothing. Some only dream of having an ounce of what we have. “It doesn’t matter if the glass is half empty or half full…be grateful you have a glass, and there is something in it.”-anonymous

What’s in your glass? I asked people around campus what was in their glass, and here were some of their responses:

“I am thankful for my family…and that I’ve been healthy and have been able to work in such a wonderful place. I’m also grateful for my faith and for what it allows me to see and imagine about the world,” said Andrea J. Lee, President of St. Catherine University

“My family for supporting me through everything. My friends for making my life happy and full, even from a thousand miles away. I’m thankful for the staff of Heart of the Beast Puppet Theater for sharing their life knowledge with me and teaching me to enhance my artistic skills,” said Liz Walker, ’19.

More examples of students expressing gratitude in SMH 1st floor bulletin board.

More examples of students expressing gratitude in SMH 1st floor bulletin board.

“I am thankful for my 10 year old son who always makes my day better! I am thankful that I have a good job working with great people that I enjoy seeing every day. And I am thankful for my health!” said Jocselyn Ehloe, Operations Manager at Sodexo Dining.

“I am thankful for my family and friends that live thousands of miles away, on a different continent, because they keep encouraging me to do what I like even though there’s a huge distance in between us. I’m also thankful for this wonderful experience to live and work here. Last but not least, I’m thankful for every single person here that makes me belong here and feel like home but in another country and culture,” said Kimberly Postec, French Lab Instructor/International Scholar in Residence.

“I’m thankful for my church families, both on campus and at home,” said Abi Opsetg, ’18.

What are some ways one can strengthen his or her gratitude? One way is to simply take five minutes out of each day to just be thankful for all that you have. Even thinking of one blessing is enough, but try to work towards one more each day. When thinking about them, we almost have to think of them as if we have just experienced them for the first time. Examples of this would be shoes. Imagine never having a pair of shoes until today. Now imagine not having a pair of comfortable shoes until today. On top of that, perhaps imagine not having a pair of fashionable comfortable shoes until today.

If you would like to go a step further, you might try a gratitude journal. To help you out, Ehow suggests:

“Make it a routine…Select a time to write every day- make it a habit.”
“Write in detail: Journal about the one thing that has recently impacted you.”
“Uncover gratitude in unexpected moments: Challenge yourself to find gracious qualities in life’s difficult moments.”

Whether it be using these methods or another method entirely, I encourage everyone to make gratitude an essential part of your daily life. Through the practice, you may find grace, happiness, and peace.


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