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November 11th, 2016

What's the point of helping youth discover their inner beauty, meaning, and giftedness if we don't teach them to take time to delight in who they are?

originally shared by Search Institute:

With Thanksgiving around the corner, it’s the perfect time to encourage the young people in your program or classroom to cultivate a sense of gratitude. Youth development experts Susan Ragsdale and Ann Saylor devote an entire chapter to the practice of gratitude in their new book, Groups, Troops, Clubs, & Classrooms: The Essential Handbook for Working with Youth.

Ragsdale and Saylor ask readers an interesting question: What’s the point of helping youth discover their inner beauty, meaning, and giftedness if we don’t teach them to take time to delight in who they are?

“Gratitude is simply the act of being grateful,” write Ragsdale and Saylor. “Being grateful that I am strong and healthy, even if I didn’t score any points in the basketball game. Being grateful for my friend who really appreciates me, even when I was shunned by the popular group.”

A strength-based approach is grounded in recognizing what’s right with people, particularly in yourself and the people you interact with every day. Gratitude is so relevant because it changes attitudes, and it helps people focus on the good, instead of the negative.

“Gratitude is a power practice that changes our perspective about life’s joys and hardships. It recharges our batteries when our energy is depleted or we are overwhelmed by life,” say these best-selling authors of Great Group Games: 175 Boredom-Busting, Zero-Prep Team Builder for All Ages.

Ragsdale and Saylor recommend certain disciplines to adults to foster gratitude, especially because some personalities tend to be more negative than positive. Try these tips:

  • Decide. Decide you’re going to be as present as you can to each moment and find the joy.
  • Every day, embrace what’s good. When something good happens, stop, note it, and receive it as the gift it is.
  • Hit replay. Savor what’s good. Re-picture it and turn it into an experience.
  • Share gratitude. Sharing is a happiness booster: hold open a door, help someone cross the street, or take a moment to listen.

Finally, here are some tips to use with young people to develop their sense of gratitude:

  • List it. Have youth create a list of the little blessings, joys, and graces that they have experienced recently.
  • Journal it. Allow youth time to journal about things they are grateful for each day.
  • Share it. Include a “circle of gratitude” time, inviting each person to share one thing he or she is grateful for.

You can find dozens of strategies to help young people discover their inner strengths and passions inGroups, Troops, Clubs, & Classrooms. The book includes numerous games, activities, icebreakers, and quizzes to keep you and your young people engaged and motivated.

Appreciation Challenge

March 17th, 2016

There have been a few times when I have created presents for other people that are simply lists or little booklets about the best of who they are.  Something along the lines of the “12 gifts of you.” The gift includes simple things that I note about the person that I appreciate about them and am thankful for. Sometimes they are things that I see that I’m not sure that they see about themselves.

It’s a simple gift but a thoughtful one.

This past week I got to be on the receiving end of such a gift. My sister decided to do five days of appreciation of me for my birthday.  Every day she sent me five things that she appreciated about me and she actually did this for five days. It was such an awesome gift of perspective and surprise.

I’ve always enjoyed being on the giving side of such a gift, but to be on the receiving end gave me a whole new perspective. Wow!

To jot down a few things you like about someone is such an easy way to express appreciation and to encourage them.  And, it ends up being a gift for both the giver and the receiver.

Here’s an example of what I’ve done.  I emailed my writing partner this morning.  The subject heading was “Appreciation Day.”  In the body, I said “I love that you . . . ” and then listed 4 or 5 (the number doesn’t matter) things that I love about her.

The things you appreciate don’t have to be huge. They can be quite simple.  For example, for Ann, one line was about how much she relishes chocolate and coffee with a big grin.  It makes her happy.  I also noted how she is so good at re-framing negatives into positives – a trait I admire.

Who could you take five minutes to send an appreciation note to?  Could you make it a weekly practice to send one note?  Or monthly?  Try it out. See what happens.  Making someone’s day doesn’t have to take money, a lot of time or energy.  It can be as easy as saying “I love you” or “I love the way you . . .”

The Power of Re-directing

March 11th, 2016

Guest blogger: Vanessa Helbig

Vanessa shares about the intentional action steps she took as a result of attending one of the trainings towards getting her Youth Worker Certification.

I started working with the girls at my site on December 1st. They are a very lively and spirited group; however, they often channel this energy into negative outlets. The classroom was often in chaos with students speaking loudly, arguing, complaining, and acting unhappy with a variety of new teachers coming in and out throughout the semester. They were feeling abandoned, with little structure. So there I was, the third teacher these girls have had walk into their lives in the past three months. They were very skeptical of me and the changes I had to implement. Each day felt like a battle. I spent most days trying to quiet angry students and redirect everyone to positivity and completing tasks.  I started to notice that when I walked into the school, I was bracing myself for certain students to act out as they always had in the past.

However, in the training, we talked about not pre-judging our students and that has sat with me for a while. As much as I wanted to look at each student with new hope every day, I looked at them through my own survival mode. I noticed their misbehavior first, instead of the sharply-tuned skills they were trying to master. Most of their negative behaviors were their own survival modes. Some were guarding themselves from another person walking out of their lives, venting the overload of emotions from a dramatic day, or trying to navigate growing up. In those moments they were responding with their gifts and talents in the only way they knew how.

I wanted to guide them into finding positive outlets for their natural strengths for the betterment of the group.  I channeled my discouragement of loud students who always want to talk and be the center of attention to encouragement of the student’s talent for leadership and communication.  I would look at angry students who were always upset with someone, and value their passion for friendship and loyalty. When a student would act out and I was not able to reign them back in, we would step aside for a chat. I would tell them how thankful I was for their leadership, passion, etc., and I would make sure they knew how special their traits were. Then I would ask them to help me lead the classroom with respect and kindness. Then I would address their specific misbehavior.

With this change, I started to feel better when I looked at my students. I would look at them and see hope and possibilities. In addition, I now try daily to compliment each girl throughout the class time. I try to point out something positive in each one of them where everyone else can hear. In this way I am encouraging positive behaviors and building stronger relationships with my students.

Sadly, this story doesn’t end perfectly. A few of my students have been exited from the program for behavior issues, but each of them knew that I believed they could improve their behaviors and that I saw amazing gifts in them.  Through their behavior issues I had a chance to talk to them about their value and talents; this time was an opportunity we may not have had otherwise. I hope those seeds take root over time in their lives. However, I have still witnessed successes in each girl. When my girls start to get upset they will ask to speak with me so they can calm down and have a listening ear. These moments are huge successes for me because not only are they realizing that I care, but they are practicing a coping skill that will help them their whole lives.

They are learning to pause, take a breath, and communicate before acting out. In addition, one of my girls has opened up to me about her struggle to still be a good person. We are talking about all the good she is and wants to be, but she is struggling with navigating peer pressure and growing up. When she has a difficult behavior day, she always apologizes to me and we discuss what we can do for next time. That is such a big improvement, and I believe my curtailing judgement and giving of grace has helped this change take place.

My classroom is now a room where I give grace, highlight strengths, and start each day with new hope for each student! It does not always look neat, quiet and orderly but it is a place where each student is learning their value.

What action can you commit to trying to have a more positive influence on your youth?

 

How to Teach Yourself to Live with Gratitude

February 26th, 2016

Research is revealing more and more the power of gratitude for our lives.  As a youth worker, if I want to pass on to my youth how to practice gratitude, then I need to practice it first myself.  Below is a link to a post I wrote on gratitude as a guest blogger for Church Press.  It shares the practice of reframing.

IMG_0105

http://churchpress.co/articles/life/how-to-teach-yourself-to-live-with-gratitude-part-one/

 

129 Happy Songs

August 5th, 2015

Have you ever asked someone what makes him happy and he replies “uhmm . . .” and continue to hem and haw before looking a little puzzled over how to answer?

 

We made that question a little more specific and asked youth what songs make them happy simply when they hear them come on. The response was immediate! One hundred and twenty-nine “happy” songs were provided to us to share as we worked on our book Groups, Troops, Clubs & Classrooms, The Essential Handbook for Working with Youth. Knowing that music can lift a spirit and put a smile on the face, we hope you will enjoy the happy tunes on our book’s complimentary playlist at https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLwyA1SrFC9FdH1SqOoE7H0bEsiI_XRV-p.

 

Turn to them – or your favorites – as often as you need to keep your foot tapping and a smile on your face. If music is the one of the things we know can make us happy, why not tune in?

Focus on 5

August 2nd, 2015

Gratitude is an active practice that can change your focus everso much to what’s right and good with life instead of what’s wrong. Being grateful can change an entire situation because you’ve changed the most important thing in a bad situation: you! Your attitude, your perspective, your choice on how you will respond.

 

Focus today on 5 things you often take for granted but for which you are really and truly grateful. Perhaps it’s that cup of coffee that brewed automatically while you were still trying to wake up. Or maybe it’s the hot shower that brings life. Or you got your favorite parking spot in the garage (the one you grumble about if you DON’T get it). Note the small things that make your life richer and that when absent, you are extremely aware. And give thanks with a smile. Life IS good.

 

Want to learn more about how to cultivate an attitude of gratitude on a daily basis and how that helps you in your work with young people? Check out our book Groups, Troops, Clubs & Classrooms, The Essential Handbook for Working with Youth.

Youth Heroes: The Power of Words

July 3rd, 2015

Without anyone in the church knowing it, a youth pastor in Charlotte County, Florida challenged his 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th graders to a thirty day project in the power of words. For thirty days, these young teens and pre-teens were asked to make a conscious effort to only say encouraging things to everyone they met. No put downs. Only positive, encouraging words wherever they were. At home. At school. In the neighborhood. At church. In the mall. In the grocery store. Everywhere and anywhere these youth were to avoid put downs as the norm for communication style and replace them with loving kind words.

 

Oh, and this project of love was to be done on the sly. No one was to know what they were up to or doing. It was a secret mission.

 

After three weeks into the project, the senior pastor called his youth leader into his office and asked him, ‘have you noticed the difference in our church (of some 380 people)?’

 

‘What difference would that be?’ the youth pastor asked.

 

Reverend Hayes replied, ‘months ago, everyone was growling about everything. Now, everyone is excited about the ministries we have and the upcoming projects. I am just so grateful that God is doing this.’

 

‘Me, too,’ Keith Coss had replied at the time. ‘Will you come to youth group and share this with them?’

 

‘Why?’ the pastor asked.

 

Keith smiled. ‘Trust me.’

 

The youth group meeting came and Rev. Bob Hayes shared exactly what he had shared in his office earlier. As soon as he was done speaking, a huge roar of laughter from the 28-29 youth present erupted. The pastor looked confused. Keith asked one of the 6th graders to tell the pastor what they had been doing for the past four weeks and why. The youth told the pastor about the verse they had studied (which they had all memorized).

 

The senior pastor’s response to the revelation of this big secret was so profound. He looked at that group of kids (which it should be noted was a diverse group of youth in a less than affluent part of town) and told them, ‘don’t ever let anybody ever tell you God can’t use you to change other lives for the better’ and then he quoted 1 Timothy 4:12 to the group.

Reprinted with permission from our book Ready to Go Service Projects: 140 Ways for Youth Groups to Lend a Hand. Find more ways to help youth engage their skills, talents and passions in serving the community by picking up your own book at your favorite online bookseller OR bring us to your school, church or community organization to lead service-learning workshop!

8 Simple Gifts to Celebrate Youth Achievements

May 27th, 2015
  1. Make a certificate that highlights their work
  2. Give them candy with a note attached:
    • Starbursts—you are a star student
    • Kudos—we’re grateful for you
    • Almond Joy—you bring joy to our group!
  3. Surprise them with a hot chocolate or lollipop party
  4. Bake a thank you cake or cupcakes
  5. Give gift certificates to their favorite places
  6. Make CDs or iTunes playlists with songs that commemorate their achievements
  7. Provide a free meal or soda
  8. Handwrite a note expressing what you appreciate about them

Want to learn more?  Check out our newest book, Groups, Troops, Clubs and Classrooms: The Essential Handbook for Working with Youth.  It is full of strategies to help educators, coaches and youth workers bring out the best in young people!  Check it out and share it with someone else that loves young people!

9 Daily Disciplines for Practicing Happiness

May 20th, 2015
  1.  For every negative thing you say, you must state two positive statements to negate the bad juju and reinstate positive vibes. This tactic comes from counselor Elizabeth Parrot.
  2. Use visual cues to remind yourself to be grateful. Post a favorite quote someplace you can see it every day or put a string on your finger. Wear a bracelet on your arm to remind you to focus on good things. Every time you catch yourself saying something negative, move the bracelet to your other arm as a reminder to start again. Forgetfulness is often the force that blocks us from being grateful, so create a visual reminder.
  3. Use an inspirational daily reading or look at things that make you happy. Some examples are the comics, a favorite blog, stories of kindness, the sunset, or photos on Pinterest.
  4. First thing in the morning, before rushing headlong into the day, jump into gratitude and say out loud or in your head three of four things that make you happy. Name little things, maybe even the ones that you take for granted, such as hot showers, coffee, the coveted best seat at the coffee shop, or the fact that all your toes wiggle just as they should.
  5. Always note the smallest efforts and successes. As you start your day, you can probably bank on the fact that not everything will go perfectly. So, why not start the day by identifying five things you have control over. Examples include brushing your teeth, telling your children you love them as they go off to school, getting in a 10-minute workout at the beginning of the day, saying no to the extra donut. We aren’t perfect. Our days aren’t perfect. But there are gifts in each day and we have a choice: we can look for things to be thankful for, or we can disregard things that happened because they didn’t meet our expectations. If you choose to be thankful and magnify that thanks by acknowledgment, you create more of the very energy you want in your life.
  6. Use the words “happy heart” and “happy day” in your daily conversations to generate happiness and remind yourself and others to think about being happy. We often end phone calls and e-mails with “happy day.” And one of our friends uses “happiness” as her password to serve as a daily reminder.
  7. Refer to your journal for inspiration. If you keep a journal of improvements, growth, observations, and unexpected surprises, refer back to it on the hard days when you need a pick-me-up.
  8. Look for successes around you in your youth, colleagues, and even yourself. Be quick to tell your colleagues about little victories; they mostly likely need encouragement too.
  9. Listen to our Practicing Happiness channel on youtube.

This is an excerpt from our new book, Groups, Troops, Clubs and Classrooms: The Essential Handbook for Working with Youth.  It is full of strategies to help educators, coaches and youth workers bring out the best in young people!  Check it out and share it with someone else that loves young people!

4 Tips to Help Establish the Habit of Gratitude

December 3rd, 2014
  1. Decide. Decide you’re going to be as present as you can to each moment and find the joy. Many times we are surrounded by joys we don’t see because we’re too focused on the next deadline or project. Decide to live in the present moment and fully experience it.
  2. Every day, embrace what’s good. When something good happens, don’t cut it off in your hurry to move on! Stop, note it, recognize it, and receive it as the gift it is.
  3. Hit replay. Savor what’s good. Re-picture it and turn it into an experience. Feel those feelings again; feel them in your body—the peace, the sense of wonder. Stay with those good feelings and memories for as long as you can. Why not? Prolonging the experience can deepen and magnify the memory. Reliving good things is worth it. Besides, it takes repetition for the brain to make experiences into long-term memories. Store up those good moments!
  4. Share gratitude. The act of sharing is a happiness booster. And it brings its own reason to be grateful. Giving of ourselves is a quick way to access gratitude. Can you hold open a door? Help someone cross the street? Change a lightbulb? Take a moment to listen? Share an encouraging word? Give a hug or a smile? In giving, you find much to be grateful for. That’s a double gratitude!

This is an excerpt from our new book, Groups, Troops, Clubs and Classrooms: The Essential Handbook for Working with Youth.  It is full of strategies to help educators, coaches and youth workers bring out the best in young people!  Check it out and share it with someone else that loves young people!

Are you Alive?

November 26th, 2014

“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.”

— Thornton Wilder, playwright and novelist

Summer Days 12

October 20th, 2014

Summer Days are a 12-part blog series focused on lessons of gratitude passed on from dog to human. This human is still trying to embrace daily the lessons of gratitude, so much so that gratitude gets an entire chapter in the book I wrote with Ann Saylor for educators, youth leaders, and parents called Groups, Troops, Clubs & Classrooms: The Essential Handbook for Working With Youth. In there, lessons of gratitude are shared as a tool for maintaining personal power and strength . . . and teaching youth to do the same.

Summer, our tail wagging, body wiggling, four-pawed bundle of pure joy, showed up in our lives, in our opinion, to share with us how to live from a deeper place of gratitude and to enjoy life’s moments happily.

Summer, a beautiful black and white border collie/lab, has been THE Gratitude Coach for 12 ½ years of our lives who was sent to teach us personally. When you are daily confronted with unconditional love, acceptance and enthusiastic eagerness just because you exist, you tend to pay attention to what that person – or dog – has to communicate.

To date, Summer’s time with us has passed on these lessons:

  1. Show love first thing each morning.
  2. Be joyfully exuberant when doing what you love.
  3. Delight in the now.
  4. Always show appreciation to others.
  5. Work and contribute.
  6. Presume friendship.
  7. Just be.IMG_3955
  8. Sleep and eat regularly.
  9. Offer presence.
  10. Be patient.
  11. Play. Always play.

And it was only in a traumatic, life-changing event that Pete and I were able to articulate a final parting lesson from Summer . . .

Lesson #12: Enjoy everything, no matter what.

It was on a Tuesday, after a long weekend of Summer being sick (unusual for her because she always bounced back after a max of two days), that we went into the vet and were shocked with the news that no dog owners want to hear: our sweet dog was terminally ill and the kindest thing we could do was let her go. I won’t belabor the particulars, only enough to make her lesson point. Summer gave no indication that she was doing poorly over the weeks or months leading to her passing. She followed all the rules of the lessons she had taught us, although some days might have been slightly slower and she did sleep a little bit more (both of which we chalked up to the nearing of her thirteenth birthday). Regardless, she religiously continued to show enthusiasm for each moment and to live each moment to the fullest that she was capable of doing.

It was on her last day – armed with the new knowledge that she had probably been sick for awhile – that we were struck at how she exemplified enjoy everything, no matter what. Never did she show pain in the time leading up to this Tuesday. And on this Tuesday, while lethargic in the morning and obviously not feeling well, she enthusiastically got into the car for every trip we made that day (four total including two to the vet – a lot of jumping in and out!).

Knowing it was her last day, we made sure we had one more play day together so that she could enjoy her favorite dogs, places and things to do. At the park, she explored and made her own path off the beaten trail. At our friends’ house, she exchanged sniffs and licks with her doggie friends and received head rubs from her human friends. Tired afterwards, she pulled away to herself to rest but allowed me to read to her and be near her while we waited for the time to go back to the vet. And going back to the vet? She eagerly looked out the windows and showed every sign of enjoying the ride and being with us. Even at the vet’s, she showed interest in other dogs and humans who were around.

And then she called it a day. But it was a great day. Despite feeling awful. Despite having given up eating a couple of days before. Despite the cancer eating away inside her which was causing her to waste away. Despite it all, Summer lived her life out to the fullest, and it was in this last day that we shook our heads with amazement at how long she had been showing us how to enjoy everything, no matter what.

No matter what physical pain may grab you; no matter what disease may try to ravish your body; no matter what age you may be; no matter what job you may have or not have; no matter what obstacles life may hand you . . . you can still enjoy the life you have. You can be in each moment and savor it or devour it or inhale it. You can choose. It’s your choice. It’s within you to do it.

And that may be the best example of grateful living in action that I’ve ever seen lived out. The challenge now is to follow that example. Evidently Summer thought we were ready. Are you?

Today, live in answer to her challenge. Follow her example.

Summer, July 9, 2002 – June 17, 2014

If you need a dog in your life or want to support abandoned dogs and cats, consider one of the agencies that help support strays and abandoned animals. We got Summer from Freedom Farms who set up at Pet Smart in Rivergate on Saturdays. Good people who are doing heroic work in caring for animals.

 

Summer Days 11

October 13th, 2014

Summer Days are a 12-part blog series focused on lessons of gratitude passed on from dog to human. This human is still trying to embrace daily the lessons of gratitude, so much so that gratitude gets an entire chapter in the book I wrote with Ann Saylor for educators, youth leaders, and parents called Groups, Troops, Clubs & Classrooms: The Essential Handbook for Working With Youth. In there, lessons of gratitude are shared as a tool for maintaining personal power and strength . . . and teaching youth to do the same.

I read the other day in an article on play that dogs play their whole lives and never forget play in their routine. It’s simply part of who they are and what they do. My personal experience proves this to be true especially with my Summer Girl, my border collie/lab, who came into my husband’s and my life as one of our two canine kids.

In Summer Days 3, as we talked about delighting in the now, we mentioned that Summer often created her own form of “play”:  stalking the edge of the forest to look for stray crickets to chase as we walked, or hunting for bunnies and nosing frogs in water holes. In addition to these acts, Summer has been known to play with her food (bringing it from the bowl into the living room, dropping food on the carpet to get one kernel at a time). She has been known to dive into her bed and attack it; play with chew toys or rawhides (of course!); or play with Lacey and us. We have chased each other in circles around the house. But our favorite game involved guard duty.  We could literally look outside, WHISPER the signal “Lacey, Summer – squirrel” or sometimes simply “squirrel” and the two dogs would tear off to go outside and chase the offending squirrel or squirrels out of the backyard (usually across the top of the fence around the yard to a particular tree).

Did you notice I said, whisper?  How in-tuned to the idea of play is that? A mere whisper could bring it out of her!

Obvious to anyone who owns or owned a dog is his or her inborn ability to play and thus we have:

Lesson #11: Play. Always Play.  IMG_3973

We had to name it, even if it’s an obvious lesson because it’s still a valuable lesson. There are high connections between play and gratitude. When we play, we are less stressed, more present, more alive and more in the moment. Those playful moments bring about gratitude as a natural response. And yet we often neglect to play as we get older in order to work. (And if you want ideas on how to play, check out our books, Great Group Games, Great Group Games for Kids and Great Group Games on the Go.)

IMG_2245How do you like to play? How do you define it? What does it look like for you? Reading a book? Watching a movie? Playing board games or cards? Being silly with a friend? Taking a moment to run backwards in your workout? Having the windows down and the wind whipping your face? Today as you go about your normal routine, don’t forget to take a moment to play – whatever that looks like for you. You know what play is. It makes you smile, lightens your heart and makes you feel free and young. Put it on your list of “must do” today: go play.

You can read all the gratitude lessons we’ve learned from our four-legged Gratitude Guru and learn for yourself how to: show love first thing each morning; be joyfully exuberant when doing what you love; delight in the now; always show appreciation to others; work and contribute; presume friendship; just be; sleep and eat regularly; offer presence; be patient; and play.

Summer Days 10

October 6th, 2014

Summer Days are a 12-part blog series focused on lessons of gratitude passed on from dog to human. This human is still trying to embrace daily the lessons of gratitude, so much so that gratitude gets an entire chapter in the book I wrote with Ann Saylor for educators, youth leaders, and parents called Groups, Troops, Clubs & Classrooms: The Essential Handbook for Working With Youth. In there, lessons of gratitude are shared as a tool for maintaining personal power and strength . . . and teaching youth to do the same.

My Gratitude Guru, Summer, has one particular trait she has exemplified over and over throughout her doggy days. My husband was the first to name this particular lesson that she has been trying to teach us:

IMG_3972Lesson #10: Be patient. Our border collie/lab is the very essence of patience. When it’s time to eat, Summer has always let Lacey, our rat terrier, eat first while she patiently sat to the side waiting her turn (no need to fight over food – there’s enough for everyone). She would patiently sit and stare at Pete every evening starting at 7:00 p.m. waiting for him to give her evening treat at 8:00. On walks, as we ran into neighbors who want to chat, she would gently lie down and wait for us to finish our conversation.

These are just a few of the daily examples of the lesson she has tried to convey to us to teach us to be happier and more content in our lives. In her early days, she tested our patience as we got used to her. As a pup, she was a very nervous, insecure puppy that had been abandoned (and rescued by Freedom Farm) and needed to know she was safe and secure. In fact, it took two years before we thought of her as more than “Lacey’s friend.” It was two years before she began to warm to us and truly became part of the pack. In those formative years, we learned we couldn’t yell at her to not do something. Yelling resulted in an immediate squat and pee.

Summer taught us to be gentle with her and to have patience as she grew and overcame her fears. Once she knew she was safe and loved, she bloomed and emerged as the Gratitude Guru who then outdistanced us and returned the favor (of offering safe, loving support and friendship) by beginning to teach us to become more of who we are. And patience is one of the keys to a happy life: patience with self, with family, with quirks, with timing . . .

Where are you most impatient? Why? Where do you need to breathe deeply and show patience? What might happen if you let go of control or expectations and simply offer patience and let things unfold as they will?

Today, be grateful for the trying moments that try your patience and recognize that within that moment is a lesson just for you waiting to teach you what you need to learn. Maybe it’s to be gentler with yourself or others. Maybe it’s to accept differences. Look deep into that challenging moment that stirs you and wonder what in you is begging to change. And give thanks for the moment and the opportunity to behave differently.

Summer has taught us many lessons as our Gratitude Guru. Read all the blogs to learn how to: show love first thing each morning; be joyfully exuberant when doing what you love; delight in the now; always show appreciation to others; work and contribute; presume friendship; just be; sleep and eat regularly; and, offer presence.

Summer Days 9

September 29th, 2014

Summer Days are a 12-part blog series focused on lessons of gratitude passed on from dog to human. This human is still trying to embrace daily the lessons of gratitude, so much so that gratitude gets an entire chapter in the book I wrote with Ann Saylor for educators, youth leaders, and parents called Groups, Troops, Clubs & Classrooms: The Essential Handbook for Working With Youth. In there, lessons of gratitude are shared as a tool for maintaining personal power and strength . . . and teaching youth to do the same.

There have been many joys in hosting a Happiness Teacher in my home for 12 ½ years. Short, adorable and easy to get along with, my border collie/lab, Summer who conveyed so much in the past decade has taught us much about making life worth living every day. The gift-wrapped lesson that has been the most significant on a daily basis to me has been:

IMG_4090Lesson #9: Offer presence. 

Every day whenever I’m around the home, she offers presence. If I’m in my office on the computer, she comes to lie down on the rug near me. If I do bills at the dining room table, she comes to lie down near my feet with her head touching my foot. If I’m working out in our workout room on the mat, she has been known to come and lick my head as I do sit-ups, walk through my legs as I stretch or be near by as my legs scissor across the top of her body. If I have been too long on the computer writing on my next book, she comes over, nuzzles my hand for “lubbing” (love + rubbings) and if possible to pull me away from work for a quick break. Sometimes I pet her and then absentmindedly tell her to go away. Sometimes I agree that I’ve been at it too long and take a few minutes to play or walk outside with her to get the mail. If I’m too busy or focused and can’t do much petting, then she “talks” to me to voice her complaint and then she will plop down at my feet.

Her lesson in presence has been a daily occurrence. “I’m here. I’m letting you know I’m here. I care.” Nothing beats that example of simple loving presence to let me know I’m loved.

In the “human” world, we often forget how valuable presence is. We feel like we have to have the right words, say the right thing, or do the right thing. Sometimes not having the right words or actions in mind will stop us from being with someone. And the truth is: simple presence is enough.

Where can you offer presence? Who shows you support that you take for granted? When is the last time you’ve told them how grateful you are that they are in your life?

Today, express gratitude to those who show you support. Tell them how much you appreciate their friendship and presence. Look for ways you can offer presence to others. Trust in the power of presence and don’t worry about having the right words or actions if it’s a tough situation. Simply sit or be with them. Let your presence speak for itself.

Practice all the lessons of Summer Days: show love first thing each morning; be joyfully exuberant when doing what you love; delight in the now; always show appreciation to others; work and contribute; presume friendship; just be; and, sleep and eat regularly.