Lifestyle of Gratitude

By: Dr. Stacey Schmidt Last Updated: April 11, 2014

stacey-schmidt-voice-april-2014This week I have found myself realizing just how grateful I am for so many things in my life (and it's not even Thanksgiving!). While this doesn't mean that everything is perfect and always going my way, I have found that when I take time to stop and reflect I am amazed at how fortunate I am and grateful for all things that cross my path--challenges and victories.

But this isn't always the driving force in my life, and I realize that I have the power to shape the person I want to be and the culture in which I wish to live. It starts with me. It starts with stopping to acknowledge all of the blessings around me and expressing that to those who are blessings to me.

The lifestyle of gratitude doesn't come naturally to me--it is something I had to learn. Early in my career as a school administrator I met a teacher named Greg Karas. When I came as principal to the building in which he taught, I learned many things about Mr. Karas from both students and teachers. He was loved by all and worked to teach students not just the standards--but about making a difference in the community in which you live and having fun while doing it. He ran the Kiwanis Club for students (K-Kids) and modeled his community involvement through a local agency that he volunteered hours of time to serve. Why did he do this? Because he recognized the power of living a lifestyle of gratitude and the difference it made in the lives of those around him. He recognized the power of a thankful community--and taught those around him that life is more than just living for ourselves. His students were learning the academic standards while also learning about cultivating hearts of gratitude and having fun doing both. He taught me these lessons--and made me a better person and administrator. In the words of John F. Kennedy:

“We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.”

Thank you, Mr. Karas, for modeling for all of us the lifestyle of gratitude. My goal is to not just "utter words, but to live by them." (see quote in photo above) Mr. Karas is retiring from teaching in the classroom this year, but the difference he has made in the lives of thousands will continue for years. I am thankful to have been one of those people who had the good fortune of crossing his path.

But this lifestyle of gratitude does not have to stop with just me trying to embed it into my life. It can seep into the fabric of our homes, our communities, our workplaces, and our world. For that to happen, it starts with me. It starts with you. As I was reflecting on this post I came to realize that Mr. Karas is one of many people I could celebrate for modeling this lifestyle of gratitude to me. I would imagine if you stop and think you can identify people in your life that have modeled this lifestyle of gratitude. I want to live in a place where gratitude is what defines us as a people. It starts with me. It starts with you. Won't you join me on this journey?