Reflecting on Gratitude

These past couple of weeks have been a maelstrom of emotional outpouring beginning with the news from Mizzou, Yale, and other universities and continuing through the Amherst Uprising and attacks across the globe in cities such as in Baghdad, Beirut, and Paris. Students, friends, and alumni have shared their life experiences in person and via social media in an unprecedented demonstration of communal discussion and radical compassion. In addition, this week the AAS held a vote regarding the removal of Lord Jeffrey Amherst as the school’s unofficial mascot and the faculty held a forum to discuss student workload. Amherst has been such a hub of activity that it is almost hard to realize we are a few days away from Thanksgiving.

I wanted, therefore, to take a step back to think about some of the things for which I am grateful, not because I think there isn’t more to be said about violence and oppression, but because I find that, in times of distress and confusion, it is comforting to be reminded of what we have instead of what we have lost.

Every year my family and I go around the thanksgiving table and say one thing that we are grateful for. I don’t believe this is a unique tradition, but nonetheless it has been central to our family’s shared history.

I have included bellow a list of people, places, and things (sometimes corny, often meaningful, mostly peculiar) that have helped me stay sane over the past week and semester and for which I am grateful:

1) The staff of Frost. Because they were incredibly accommodating when dealing with a large number of bodies in a confined area and because they continue to be accommodating for students who, on occasion, turn in reserve books twenty minutes late.

2) The Nescac snapchat story. It was beautiful and it was brief, but it gave our stories the six seconds they deserved and did it with pizzazz.

3) The Amherst High School track. It’s the best kept secret North of Triangle Street and it looks like a scene out of Juno. It’s also a much better alternative to waiting in line at the gym on the prowl for an open treadmill.

4) My kindergarten Spacemaker pencil case. One of the most durable items I own and one that I have displayed proudly on the desk in my dorm room. It reminds me of the afternoons I used to spend stretched out on the kitchen floor coloring in large posters and sipping on chocolate milk.

5) The Grab and Go staff. I see them every day and they are continuously some of the friendliest and most hard working people on campus.

6) Teacup Pigs. Guaranteed to make you feel 200% better at any time. Try to google images of tea cup pigs and not smile.

7) Letters. I didn’t start sending mail until I got to college, but since the start of freshman year I have tried to be consistent about writing to my friends and family. Putting down your thoughts on paper is so much more gratifying than sending an email. Over time, I’ve collected a beautiful mishmash of letters and postcards that I think of as my extrinsic journal and that I stash in a shoebox under my bed.

8) Clean sheets. These are almost too good. The fresh smell of linen is possibly the best in the world.

9) Time. I really wish that I had more of this one, but I’m thankful for the brief moments when the to-do list is empty and I can simply enjoy being on campus and thinking about how lucky I am to be at Amherst.

This list is by no means comprehensive, but the act of appreciation itself is almost more significant than any single item.

It is easy to get bogged down by the weight of tragedy and adversity, sometimes this burden is even a good thing, but we should allow ourselves to think positively about the people and places in our life. This is not always a simple task, but it is rewarding and powerful and allows us to more fully realize what we have and what we aspire to have.