Unified Caring Association (UCA) has multiple scholarships available during the year to help children with funds for schooling. Each time we read these submissions we are moved and excited, especially when we notice themes in the submissions. Recently we wrote a blog about one theme, empathy. We want to celebrate the other themes these essays touch upon, such as gratitude.
Gratitude is as gratitude does…
Gratitude is a topic we touch on often. Such as our other blogs titled Wired for Gratitude and Caring Through The Gift of Time. In these topics we have compiled and shared information about how acts of gratitude promote self-care and caring for others. Adopting a mindset of gratitude ultimately promotes health and healthy lifestyles while encouraging others to do the same. We are bursting with joy to see that the upcoming generations are taking steps to promote gratitude in their lives and the lives they touch as well.
Nadia Finley-Gratitude -Strength From Challenges
We all have many challenges we face in our lives. How we respond during and after these challenges make a difference. UCA loves to hear when the response is with care, positivity, and gratitude. Nadia wrote a unique essay on how she is grateful for all of the challenges that have made her who she is today. Stronger, empowered, and more grateful for all that happens in her life. She shares her journey with us by speaking with emotion to someone who bullied her, moving through levels of gratitude: “Thank you! Because I realize the discrimination I suffered only made me stronger. Thank you! I learned where there is adversity, there is an opportunity to show unconditional love. Thank you! For not realizing my worth, it forced me to value my own unique beauty, without your approval. Thank you! I own this experience in pain, which in turn is more powerful than living in the illusion where you tried to keep me… Now I am grateful for my challenges.” Thank you for sharing with us Nadia, we are grateful for you, and all you do!
Faith Lovato- Gratitude, A New Perspective
“If I could change one thing in this world to make it a more caring place, I would change the way people view their lives.” This is the topic of Faith’s essay. She remarks about how most people are ‘normally’ “…ungrateful, unsatisfied, undetermined, content and unaware of how blessed they are.” Faith wants to change this and promote a new perspective on life. This is a perspective of gratitude, positivity and realizing that the little things add up. “Focus your attention to the little things in life. Because the little things are what matter in life.” Faith would like for us to stop spending time on what we lack. Exchanging that time for appreciating what we have. She echoes other comments we have read that time spent on technological devices can promote a view of lacking and unappreciation. Spending time with others, sharing your gratitude, and striving for a positive perspective on life makes all of the small things we experience add up to the larger good in our lives.
Allison Jarman- The Little Things Can Make the Biggest Impacts
Remember Faith’s essay mentions how all of the little things in life add up? Allison wrote a moving essay with the focus on “…helping people to see that we change the world by doing small things.” She tells us about her life experiences through her interactions and time spent with a friend who has down syndrome. “It always made me so happy when I would come over. My friend showed her happiness by waiting for me outside and being very grateful. With very minimal effort, I was able to show my friend that I cared and help bring her some happiness.” Allison shares that her friend’s mother too is grateful for the friendship and time spent with her daughter. This makes three direct moments of gratitude and joy. We can picture them spending time together, laughing and playing.
Allison states, “I would like to help others experience the joy and happiness I have experienced through small acts. It does not take giant acts of kindness to make the world a better place, small acts of kindness and love will make it a more caring place.” This is wonderful to read because there is more impact when real actions support our words; a.k.a. actions can speak louder than words. Allison wants to lead by example by teaching “…others that simple things such as checking up on a friend, giving compliments and using patience while driving are all simple acts of service.” In her finishing comments she states that “if we all worked on at least these three areas the world would be a much better place.”
We have been so excited to share themes from our scholarships, that we wanted to take the time to say thank you to all of the applicants. We are filled with joy when we read all of your caring essays. Without a doubt gratitude is a strong way to go forward to help create a more caring world.
What is one of the purest caring acts a person can give? Is it a job where you get money? A trip around the world? Or is it a piece of jewelry, costing a lot of money? It’s hard to say, because every person is different and perceives acts of kindness a little bit differently. But when breaking down any example of what a person has done that is an act of caring we can follow the metaphorical bread crumb trail to arrive at the core. The gift given was the gift of time. Many people today are on the go, moving from one place to the other. Their faces in smartphones with eyes scanning the pages fluttering by with the flick of a fingertip. It has become more rare to pause and take a moment to share our gratitude with others.
In an article written by Harvey B. Simon, M.D. and published by Harvard Health Publishing, there is a great description of what the word gratitude means. “The word gratitude is derived from the Latin word gratia, which means grace, graciousness, or gratefulness (depending on the context). In some ways gratitude encompasses all of these meanings. Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible.” (https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/giving-thanks-can-make-you-happier) We heard a great memory one time. Growing up, they were always reminded that if a person gives you five minutes or more of their time, thank them. This can be done verbally on the phone, by email, or even through “snail mail” as a written letter. (Bonus points if it is written legibly by hand). This personal touch and the gift of your time to those that have spent precious moments connecting with you goes a long way.
Acts of gratitude have been shown to have many benefits including improving your health. One such example of this is talked about in an article titled How Gratitude Changes You and Your Brain, written by Joel Wong and Joshua Brown for Greater Good Magazine, Science-Based Insights for Meaningful Life. It is here that we see a study on sharing gratitude through writing letters. What was found was that “…when [they] compared those who wrote the gratitude letters with those who didn’t, the gratitude letter writers showed greater activation in the medial prefrontal cortex when they experienced gratitude in the fMRI scanner. This is striking as this effect was found three months after the letter writing began. This indicates that simply expressing gratitude may have lasting effects on the brain. While not conclusive, this finding suggests that practicing gratitude may help train the brain to be more sensitive to the experience of gratitude down the line, and this could contribute to improved mental health over time.” (https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_gratitude_changes_you_and_your_brain)
One other note about sharing your gratitude is it is self-perpetuating and a self-fulfilling prophecy. We have spent many hours observing how others and myself are affected by the simple genuine thank you. Often there is a smile and a warming of the eyes that accompanies a thank you in return. Think about the last time you were thanked. How did that made you feel. We bet you are smiling now as you replay that memory.
Unified Caring Association has a history of promoting acts of kindness in their CARE program that helps others share their thanks and gratitude for others. One of these was in response to a natural disaster in California, where many upon many lost their homes and possessions. UCA helped with gathering of donations for the people and their families that were affected. (UCA members can read the full article HERE.) There are so many other articles like this on the UCA’s website. If you want to read more about UCA’s caring acts, there is a snapshot in Caring Actions! Also, UCA has a Caring Challenge where each day has a prompt for a caring act such as thanking someone!
How do we summarize all of this information about gratitude and taking the time to share it? By simply taking that small but important moment to say thank you. Thank you for your time, your attention, and your kindness. Your time is precious, and it is honored with gratitude.