We make a lot of gratitude in all areas of our school life at Westminster; so much so, in fact, that along with ‘kindness’ and ‘usefulness’ it has been one of the key emphases in a three-year cycle of values. You will see posters highlighting “Kindness-Gratitude-Usefulness” in many places around the School, as well as featuring in wellbeing and Chapel. One of the learnings of the Year 12 Leaders from their challenging shared year, summarised in their final Chapel was, “Through it all the most immense feeling of gratitude”. In several different contexts I have heard people reflect that perhaps COVID has taught us all not to take what we have for granted, thus making us more grateful.
Some disciplines point to the clear benefits of displaying gratitude, including a noted release of serotonin in the brain, a feel-good hormone. Gratitude leads to positive emotions, and expressing gratitude for what we receive makes us more likely to offer similar to others. And I find another reason why gratitude is good for us; it helps us attribute goodness in our lives. It answers, “where does this come from?”. From a faith perspective, many blessings come to us from God, however we conceive God to be.
I learnt this from my Dad. At 71 he had multiple heart valve by-pass surgery. There were complications, but Dad recovered. Afterwards he would say to his son, the pastor, “It has taught me not to take a single day for granted, to treat each one as a gift”. But then he said to me, in his rather typical fashion, “But you know what, mate? I’m a bit of a dill”. I had to ask, “Why’s that, Dad?” His reply? “Well, every day before the operation was a gift too, but I just didn’t recognise it”.
Rev Phil Hoffmann