Practicing Joy, Peace & Inspiration

David LePere

David LePere

Thanksgiving can be a year-round holiday!

The food is great, for sure, but there is a more compelling reason for the sprit of Thanksgiving to be celebrated all year!

I started my weekly all-school meeting with the middle schoolers of Cherokee Creek Boys School with a statement I hoped would get everyone thinking. “Thanksgiving can make you happy for a whole year.” Some of the students reacted at first with a “huh?”, but once I connected a few dots, everyone was on board.

“Do any of you know someone with a big challenge in their life … something that you think is sad, scary, overwhelming or defeating, but, in-spite of it all, they just have the best attitude about it?” I asked. Lots of hands went up, and one boy shared that he had a cousin who was paralyzed, and had a better attitude than everyone around her. We all probably know someone who has challenges we can hardly imagine, but through it all is fun to be around, and really enjoys life.

What do they have that is so powerful, that even in the face of true difficulty they can smile and laugh and enjoy? It is the attitude of  “Thanksgiving!”

Being grateful for what we have instead of resentful about what we don’t is one of the biggest choices we have. And that choice is in front of us all the time, continually presenting itself.

Lots has been written about the power of gratitude and a having a positive attitude to elevate your spirits, heal and bring positive change into your life. Norman Vincent Peale wrote, “The Power of Positive Thinking”, MJ Ryan wrote “Random Acts of Kindness” and “The Attitude of Gratitude”. Dr. Martin Seligman, Director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Positive Psychology Center, is the founder of Positive Psychology, a field of study that  has been able to empirically demonstrate that such things as positive emotions and  strengths-based character make it possible to be happier, to feel more satisfied, to be more engaged with life, find more meaning, have higher hopes, and probably even laugh and smile more, regardless of one’s circumstances.  Hooray for that!

Those of you who have been on a Family Trek know that at Cherokee Creek we ask the boys to reflect on three questions,   “What brought you Joy?  What brought you peace? What inspired you?” Our mentor, Angeles Arrien, calls these “tracking tools,” a way to touch in daily with the joy and beauty of the day and what we have to be grateful for. These are the lessons of gratitude that can be seen in every position on the Medicine Wheel… the Warrior who chooses to stand and be present in life… and the Visionary who speaks the truth without blame and judgement…and the Healer who does what has heart and meaning...and the Teacher who is open to outcome and therefore able to be grateful to whatever is in front of him/her.

My challenge to you is to begin spending time practicing your “attitude of gratitude” and respond to our three tracking questions. You will need just a few minutes. Take those few minutes and think about what brought joy, peace and inspiration to you. Do it once a day, or even more if you dare. I believe that the spirit of Thanksgiving will be present with you throughout the day!

An excerpt of Dr.  Martin Seligman’s recent presentation on the state of positive psychology can be viewed below (approx. 20 minutes).

Cherokee Creek Boys School is a therapeutic boarding school for middle-school boys, ages 11-15, located in upstate South Carolina. Visit www.cherokeecreek.net for more information.

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posted by Shaler Black Cooper in Discovering What is Real and True and have Comments (4)

4 Responses to “Practicing Joy, Peace & Inspiration”

  1. leslie kern says:

    So well put, David. We attended the Family Trek this past November and found it a most wonderful experience. I couldn’t agree with you more that appreciating the everyday joys of life is one of the most important keys to happiness. I have recently had the opportunity to talk to many people who face real challenges in their life, and they all tell me the same thing – that even though they are waging their own battle, that same challenge has helped enriched their lives because it has taught them to appreciate daily joys that they once took for granted. I am so glad you are working to help the boys learn this early in their lives.
    Thank you.
    Leslie Kern (Elliott’s mom)

  2. Sandy Affonso says:

    David – you’ve done it again! Connecting the dots is your gift for all of us! Thank you! Don’t forget to add “Anyway – the Paradoxical Commandments” by Kent Keith, YMCA leader in Honolulu. (10 statements that start with “People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered. Love them anyway.” I’m sure these are familiar to most of us, but Kent wrote a short book to go with them – perfect for CCBS)
    By the way, answering the 3rd question,” What inspired me” is easy – your words and demeanor and leading by example are great inspirations for me. Keep up the good work,
    Sandy

  3. David LePere says:

    You too are teaching your son about courage, and taking challenges as opportunities for learning. Thank you for being a living lesson!

  4. David LePere says:

    Sandy – your words of encouragement inspire me as well. Let’s let this season of gratitude continue for a full calendar year! Care to join me?

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