Gratitude

As Thanksgiving quickly approaches, I want to take a moment to reflect on the importance of gratitude in living a spiritually healthy life. Sometimes we get caught up in the daily struggles of life and we forget to take the time to pause and remember for whom and for what we are grateful. In Catholic theology, though, gratitude holds a place of special importance. After all, we celebrate Eucharist at each Mass, and Eucharist translates to “thanksgiving.” Each time we celebrate Mass, we give thanks to God for the many blessings in our lives.

As mentioned, though, we sometimes get overwhelmed with our days and have a hard time seeing those blessings. For me, those blessings usually come in the form of people: people who love me, people who support me, people who make me laugh, or sometimes the person with the cart full of items at the grocery store who let me cut in front when she saw I only had 2 items to purchase. I believe that I focus my gratitude on people instead of things because our relationships with others are so much a part of who we are. We might want to deny it at times, but the reality is that, for better or worse, we are who we are based on our relationships with family, friends, acquaintances, creation, and God.

We held our Freshman Retreat in the beginning of October this year with the theme “I GOT U.” It works not only as an acronym for how to enter into a retreat (Intentional, God in all things, Open, Timely transitions, U get out what you put in), but also as a reminder of the type of community we want to build here at Verb. We are not just classmates, students, teachers, and colleagues. We are family. We know we can rely on each other and on God. And when we see someone else in our Verb family who needs us, we are quick to respond with “I got you!”

To help me focus on who and what I am grateful for each day, I keep a gratitude journal on my laptop. Each night before I go to bed, I jot down at least three moments during that day for which I am grateful. It helps me remember my blessings. Not surprisingly, my three “things” that I typically jot down are people: students, colleagues, family – people who I had a positive moment with that day. They are people who showed me through actions that they “got me” and people who allowed me to say to them, “I got you.” And, of course, I am always grateful for God continually saying “I got you!” to each of us every day.

Sophomore Parables…

Christian Scriptures is one of my favorite courses to teach yet, it can be challenging to get students to see the relevance of scripture in their lives. I begin this course by asking students to reflect on their own lives, their own stories. I remind them that they have a unique story to tell and then we move to make the connection between their stories and the stories of our faith. As we read and study the Gospels, I challenge them think about how this might be relevant in their lives. In the Gospels, we read that Jesus used parables to teach about the Kingdom of God. He made sure that these parables were drawn from everyday life, were thought provoking and challenged the contemporary perception of the Kingdom of God. This year, I challenged my budding theologians to use their creativity and write a modern day parable based on one we read, analyzed and reflected in class.

Presenting…

“Imagine you are running in a Marathon. At the end of the race [there] is a prize. You will run and run until you reach there. On the way, you might trip and fall. A person will be there to help you and he will help you when you trip and fall and is determined to get you to the finish line. He is determined until you finish your run. After the marathon, you will be celebrating with the person who helped you, so you shall earn the prize. If you don’t you will give up the marathon and wont, get the prize.”

“Think of heaven like a gaming clan. It starts with a leader. Then, it begins to grow over time. Getting more members and the clan starts to go global. It is like heaven and Jesus/God as our leader and us as the members joining the clan.”

My hope is that by not only engaging the Gospels but also engaging their own lives, my students can grow in their faith and come to understand that their own story is part of this larger story of Christianity. How would your modern parable read?

My Story

Growing up, I was the only girl of color in my elementary magnet school.  I struggled with reading and was put in the ‘Orange Uh-Oh’ reading group.  I didn’t know then, but later learned that my parents had to fight long and hard for me to receive the support I needed to be a success in my academic career and continue in the magnet program.  The discrimination they endured while they were in school, and saw their daughter going through, drove them to fight for something better for me.  They won their fight, and I thrived.  Having later learned of my elementary experience, I was determined to make sure that all people are treated with respect, given every opportunity for success and to make my parents proud.

I continued on my path, not knowing where I would end up.  I proudly earned a B.A. in Sociology at CSU Dominguez Hills. After obtaining my B.A., I decided to try my hand in teaching and fell in love with the process.  I decided to further my education and am blessed to have obtained my M.A. in Educational Administration, as well as gained experience in grades K – 10 as both a learner, educator and administrator.

I never expected to be a teacher.  I didn’t know what I wanted to be, but I knew I wanted to do something that would leave a positive imprint on society.  Upon reflecting on my journey, it is evident that God’s hand has always been leading me to where He needs me to be.  A counselor, a friend, an encouraging word, an educator.   My experience has allowed me to assist hundreds of students improve their skills and see them thrive in a positive environment.  Seeing them walk in the classroom on day 1 as an unsure student, and walk out standing tall and thankful for what they have learned is a great gift.

The journey has not always been smooth, but it has brought a plethora of knowledge and experience that I have needed to complete God’s work.

I am blessed to be able to share that with the Verb community.  Thanks for having me!