Thanksgiving. We must take time for gratitude amid the mundane chores and stressful demands of our daily lives.
Daily life: the phone is ringing, and on line #1 there’s a student complaining about heat, and on line #2, a parent urgently requests a meeting to discuss her daughter’s grades. An email pops up, then another, and another — Internet access is too slow, the library has a leak somewhere, a staff member is fussing about a schedule change. But good news flows as well, alumnae send messages of good cheer over the success of one of our own, Nancy Pelosi. Then the CFO sticks her head in to report that the chiller we thought could be repaired needs to be replaced. Oh, and the auditors have some new rules we must discuss soon… Snail mail brings a raft of materials to read for upcoming meetings of external boards, new regulations from the Department of Education, and, thankfully, some annual fund checks with lovely notes from alumnae! Also, the wonderful news of the re-funding of a major grant, hooray!
Thanksgiving: I must take time for gratitude. I give thanks for the jangling phones and demanding emails and insistent students and concerned parents and agitated colleagues and generous alumnae and friends. They are the reason why I get up with renewed enthusiasm each morning, greeting each day with renewed hope that I might just be able to contribute a little bit to improve their opportunities to learn, to grow, to live productive lives. Oh, I’m a realist — personally, I can’t directly fix most of the problems posed, and even my charming powers of persuasion sometimes fail when I try to get others to fix things. But the leader’s job is not the short-term fix, but the long-term possibility of hope, the vision of a future that can be deeply fulfilling for all in the community.
Our world is so stressed out these days, and the idea of taking a minute to be grateful — yes, even grateful for the interruptions and demands — might seem quaint, even corny. But gratitude is an expression of hope, the acknowledgement that this hard work can and will make a difference in other lives. Gratitude also a profound expression of our essential connectedness as human beings — none of us can make it through life or work or school alone. We depend on the kindness, the generosity, the commitment and the strength of others to help us through each day. Yes, I am grateful even for the complaints, the many needs brought to my desk, because they are also expressions of connectedness, and in them I find the meaning of my work. We all have that need, to feel that our work is meaningful for others.
Thanksgiving: let’s all take a few minutes this week to step back from the urgent to consider what’s really important — and give thanks for the community we share at Trinity. We give thanks for the students who give meaning to our days. We give thanks for the colleagues who challenge us to do our best. We give thanks for the alumnae and friends whose generosity and devotion to Trinity have sustained this great institution for more than a century. We also give thanks for the Sisters of Notre Dame who had an idea so powerful that thousands of lives have been changed for the better because of their genius in founding Trinity.
Happy Thanksgiving to all!!