Greetings! I write to you from the Great Hall of the International Student House. I’m currently snuggled up under a blanket next to the fire, sporting pink striped fuzzy socks and reading Anne Marie Slaughter’s Unfinished Business. I started jotting down some thoughts in my journal—but then I thought, who better to share them with than my loyal followers on the ISH blog (Hi Mom!).
Lately, I keep having moments where I think about how sad and nostalgic I am going to feel when I move out of ISH (roughly 25-30 years from now… just kidding!). I know that I am going to reflect back on my current life and think about how amazing it was, mostly because I lived at ISH and had the opportunity to meet such brilliant people. Thinking about how “future me” is going to feel has encouraged me to be more present and make time every day to appreciate and celebrate all of the big and small moments of my life. I recently read an article in The New York Times about practicing gratitude and it really resonated with me. Essentially the author made the point that gratitude breeds happiness; happiness does not breed gratitude. It seems pretty obvious: choosing to f ocus on the good things instead of the bad things makes us happier (and also fatter according to this new study.) No wonder Thanksgiving is associated with eating to our heart’s content!
For me, practicing gratitude on a daily basis is no easy task. I take my education, my privilege, and my mental and physical health for granted more than I’d like to admit. Aside from singular moments of appreciation, it’s not until I am deprived of my usual comforts or actively put myself in someone else’s shoes that I truly appreciate how lucky I am.
A few weeks ago, a group of ISH residents participated in a “Sleep Out” to raise awareness and fundraise for the Covenant House, a shelter for homeless, disconnected and exploited young people living in Washington, DC. We had the opportunity to meet with current and former residents of the Covenant House and hear their stories before sleeping outside of Freedom Plaza. We were all incredibly moved by the residents and by the stories of those who were participating.
When we were all laying in our sleeping bags later that evening, one of my fellow House resident explained that the he enjoyed the discussion because of “how refreshing it was be taken out of your own world view.” I couldn’t agree more. I came away from the Sleep Out feeling more knowledgeable about how pervasive youth homelessness is in DC and grateful for so many things in my life. We are all especially grateful for all of the support we received from Board Members who donated to our team and for Linda Harper who organized the event and slept out with us!
Having just celebrated Thanksgiving, I hope this post serves as a personal reminder to always focus on the good in life, to be grateful for all of the big and small moments, and to constantly be present and open to new experiences and worldviews.