In many ways the lives of young people are easy. We are, most of us, lucky to have an upbringing that starts us off well in life. It can be easy to forget the importance of being grateful for what we have. Comparing what we have (even if it is the simple gift of clean running water) and what others might be missing, helps us to appreciate the vast set of things to make you thankful.
During the Thanksgiving assemblies over the past few weeks all of us who watched and participated were encouraged to think and reflect on what makes us feel grateful. The sermon from Phil, our Chaplain, voiced the idea that there is room for gratitude just about everywhere (even in the smallest of things). Thinking about being grateful has allowed me to develop my own thoughts about things, even if they appear insignificant at first. Even if something is of little monetary, or no material value, we each have something that we can be thankful to have or to be provided with.
A fantastic example of gratitude is made with the help of the song, ‘Coat of Many Colours’ by Dolly Parton (who is an absolute legend in music!) The backstory to this song and Dolly’s past is about an event during her upbringing in a very poor family in the Tennessee Mountains (USA). Her mother received a box of old rags and clothing as a donation which she used to stitch together a coat for Dolly to wear in the winter. The coat was, as Dolly said, ‘Made only with love but I wore it so proudly’ but I wore it so proudly’ which is the first nod to how she had very little. This, however, did not stop her from being grateful. She then goes on to say how when she went to school the other students would laugh and make fun of her situation.
The theme of gratitude continues as she proceeds to say, ‘They didn’t understand it and I tried to make them see, that
one is only poor only if they choose to be’. You’re only poor if you choose to be. You’re only lacking, if you choose not to be grateful for what you have. Examining this song, while thinking about the Services of Thanksgiving, has challenged my preconceptions about gratitude and its importance.
In the past I have made no secret of things which don’t make me feel thankful in life and so my questioning of Dolly’s message about being so grateful when you have so little, has helped me understand more fully what she meant. Anyone can complain about how they don’t have a lot to make them feel grateful, but a source of what could make us grateful can come from anywhere. The last line of the song brings together my point: ‘Although we had no money, I was rich as I could be, in my coat of many colours, my Mama made for me’.
You can be as rich as you want to be, you can be as grateful for what you have as you want to be, but only if you feel grateful for what you’ve got; otherwise you remain in a state of constantly hungering for more. The trick, and my challenge to you, is to find something that you are thankful for. I guarantee that it won’t take you too long.