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“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” – Melody Beattie

Gratitude is a powerful tool for self-reflection. In the fast-paced, bustling rhythm of our lives, it is a practice that forces us to slow down, take a breath. What did I eat for breakfast this morning? When was the last time I called my mom? The habits we perform, often without thinking about them, doing the things we’ve done a hundred times before and will do a hundred times more in the future, are so ingrained in our bodies that they feel like second nature. Sometimes it feels like we’re living life on an endless loop – wake up, go to work, check things off the to-do list, and before you know it the day’s over. Another one come and gone.

Gratitude allows us to be present. To be mindful. To have an intention behind every action, every thought, every feeling. To actively interact with oneself. It sounds cliché to say and even more so to sit down and think about the things we’re grateful for – after all, isn’t it obvious? But gratitude doesn’t have to be something contrived or flowery like it often is at Thanksgiving, when the family takes turns repeating a mantra before dinner. Gratitude can be, and is, simpler. It’s those conscious moments when you stop to recognize the ordinary beauty of a gesture or a comment or a flitting expression. It’s the coffee you drink every morning that helps you feel grounded and focused – and awake – before you start your day. It’s the smile exchanged between strangers on the sidewalk, the small daily victories we often forget to celebrate because we’re too busy focusing on the next task.

Gratitude unshackles us from the toxic emotions that keep us stuck in a vortex of negativity, going around and around until we’re dazed and complacent. It’s a powerful habit to implement in your everyday life; a study conducted by Berkeley University found that conscious efforts at positivity can actually rewire the brain and improve your relationships with others and most importantly with yourself. Don’t get me wrong, it’s hard to remember this – not to mention practice it – especially when the going gets tough and it seems there’s no end in sight. 2020 was a good reminder of that. But it’s especially necessary in those moments not to lose sight of the mundane moments that make up the beautiful tapestry of our lives.

As a HomeWorks intern for the past 8 weeks, I’ve witnessed firsthand the gratitude exchanged in the tireless teamwork and dedication it takes to make an organization like this one run. It takes a village. And I think it’s important to highlight and appreciate the efforts of every single person involved because I know I couldn’t have done it without them. Even if it was to answer a simple question or just give me a few words of encouragement, I am so thankful for each and every person I interacted with this summer who made it such an unforgettable experience. I will always carry the lessons I learned and memories I made over these past 8 weeks with me – and I will always look back with a smile and a warm glow – and an overwhelming sense of gratitude.

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