Grateful living means many things to many people, but for me it hinges on service and learning. Looking back I don’t recall explicitly talking much about living gratefully in my home but it was modeled all around me. Early on I learned that the highest human virtue is compassionately serving others. We were taught, as most others, that life is a gift and we ought to be grateful for it. But for us it wasn’t about counting blessings as much as recognizing everyone’s dignity. Don’t get me wrong, counting your blessings is important but it need not stop with oneself when we can divide each other’s pain and multiply our joys.
My mom showed me that even when I thought we needed more, we always had enough and even more to share.
Collecting clothes and food for needy families with my mom showed me that even when I thought we needed more, we always had enough and even more to share. It was that simple yet profound we all learn in kindergarten: sharing is caring. For a young justice-oriented student, it was important to see that giving our time, energy, and attention could bring about small positive change. Plus, growing up in the Farm Workers movement also proved collective action could have tremendous impact, no matter the odds.
[quote text=”To be of service to others, we have to truly pay attention to individuals to understand who they are and their situation as they see it.”]
What I continued learning from my mom, whom I say gave me my heart, is that listening deeply is the first, most repeated and paramount part of any action. She showed me that to be of service to others, we have to truly pay attention to individuals to understand who they are and their situation as they see it. Compassionate action, I saw, required an abundance of empathy, patience and kindness. Thinking back on all of it, now I can appreciate that the source of all these virtues she modeled for us was her living gratefully.
Today I find myself working to promote learning through service in civically engaged projects. Service-Learning isn’t new but is too rarely employed. Its value lies in developing students’ natural curiosities and talents as they begin understanding and shaping their roles in the world. Any teacher will say that the deepest form of learning is through doing. So what better thing to be doing than having curious, idealistic and passionate students working together and discovering solutions for the challenges we’ll all face together? Because the best antidote to today’s prevalent cynicism – misguided by apathy and ignorance – is to ensure that service and learning are our highest civic virtues. That’s what grateful living means to me today.