Thomas F. O'Neill
Americans are once again extremely divided over political
extremes, and my students, here in China enjoy sending me text
messages about things they are hearing and seeing on social
media. They ask questions about the social unrest and the
protests in the streets of America. Life in the US seems
chaotic, especially, in the eyes of people throughout the world.
I tell my students, the media is not covering the entire story.
There have been periods of social unrest throughout our
countryís 244-year history and progressive changes for the
better have always followed those periods.
It can be extremely difficult especially with the
Coronavirus pandemic to maintain an upbeat and positive attitude
during these trying times. Especially, with the rise in
Coronavirus cases and deaths in US hospitals. I remind my
students; America has gone through many trying times before and
this too will be overcome through our American resolve because
Americans can overcome any challenge that comes our way. My
personal experience of being quarantined for 10 weeks in China
from the middle of January to the end of March was a trying
period for me as well, but it became a period of self-
I received a text message, yesterday, from one of my
former students who told me she got word that she will be able
to enter the US on an F1 student visa. When I received her text,
it reminded me of a lesson I gave her class last semester. I
conduct this particular lesson every school year itís about
showing gratitude. She did a wonderful job of letting me know
how grateful she is for the teachers she had throughout the
I explained to my students in class one day that most of
us take things in our lives for granted. For instance, the
nurses and doctors on the front lines caring for those infected
with the coronavirus are shown little appreciation at times. We
show them little gratitude for their service in caring for the
needs of others until we or a loved one falls ill.
We rarely appreciate what we have in life until it is
gone and that includes the people in our lives. Since I have
been living in China people in my life have passed away, Aunts,
Uncles, friends, and most recently my Mother. We rarely show or
take the time to show others our heartfelt gratitude for them
being in our lives and we do not fully appreciate the things
they have done until they are no longer around.
Psychologists have discovered, people who show their
gratitude are much happier than those who do not express their
gratitude. Because it is not happiness, that leads to gratitude,
itís gratitude that leads to happiness.
Let the people in your life know how much you appreciate
them, it will not only boost their self-esteem, but it will also
boost their overall respect for you. When you give people a
sincere compliment, words of encouragement, or just a warm
smile, you are making their world a better place. You are making
them feel appreciated and valuable. When you express your
approval or gratitude for something others have done, you will
not only enhance their life, but you will enrich yours as well.
You will feel more fulfilled because you have done something to
make a life for someone else better.
Start each day with a sense of gratitude it will have a
positive influence on the rest of your day. Ending each day with
a sense of gratitude will also bring you back to a place of
appreciation no matter what happened throughout the day.
Gratitude is also a powerful affirmation it brings more
of what we want into our life. If we are grateful for the
things, we have, we will attract more goodness into our lives
and the lives of those around us.
Every school year, I tell my students, write down at
least 3 things you are grateful for and share them with a
trusted friend. I also ask them to keep a daily journal because
a journal is a great way of bringing out on paper all the
things, we are thankful for. I tell them, it will be fun when
looking back on your daily journal and reading what you wrote
years from now. You will be able to see how your ideas and
attitudes mature and grow with time. A daily journal is also a
great way in helping you express the things you cannot say to
other people even your best friend.
Every day, try and tell others what you are grateful for
and 'why.' The 'why' explanation is the most important part of
showing your gratitude to others. This expression of
gratefulness will leave you feeling a lot more lifted when it
comes to your mood and attitude on life.
Be grateful even during these hard times, because these
difficult times in life can become opportunities for growth and
understanding. Challenges can strengthen our minds and lead to
greater maturity. Face each difficulty that comes your way with
renewed vigor. But, most of all, be grateful that you have the
strength to face your difficulties head-on.
Putting your gratitude into action is quite simple - a
simple text message, email, or a nice phone call will accomplish
your goal of letting others know that they are appreciated. A
handwritten thank you note can also be a super cool surprise for
those we care about in our technology dominant world.
Always with love from Suzhou, China
Thomas F OíNeill
Phone: (800) 272-6464
U.S. Voice mail: (410) 925-9334
China Mobile: 011 (86) 13405757231
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