About the event
World Gratitude Day was conceived at a Thanksgiving Dinner at the UN in 1965 by spiritual leader Sri Chinmoy. He states that: ‘The ideal of World Gratitude Day is to give people the opportunity to offer personal gratitude, but also to remember gratitude is an essential emotion that should be universally shared.’ The day was first recognised as an annual observance in 1977 and intended to be ‘a day of celebration for all humanity, united by knowledge of simultaneously shared emotion, a day when triumph of the spirit can make a world community’.
This is a day to recognise that giving thanks and feeling gratitude can be the bedrock of a positive, peaceful mindset. Gratitude reaffirms our place in the world and our desire to care for the people and living things that surround us.
How to approach it
Gratitude is one of the ultimate counterbalances to negativity. Whilst we may be motivated by bad things we want to change, gratitude is about the good things we want to protect. Gratitude is a great guide for showing us a positive vision of what the world could be like. We live in a world obsessed with what Buddhist’s would call ‘grasping’ or ‘attachment’- e.g. needing constant gratification, overconsumption and overexpansion. Contrary to this, gratitude helps to slow us down, it focuses us on what really matters, and helps us to enjoy the little things in life.
In order to explore these themes with your students you could start with a simple gratitude exercise. Ask them to make a list of things that they are grateful for. Next, invite students to share things they have written down, compiling their answers at the front of the class. Ask your students how being thankful makes them feel. Use this to begin a discussion about what this exercise might be good for. Ask: Why is it important to remind us what we are thankful for? How might we act if we remembered to be thankful more of the time? What effect does giving thanks and showing appreciation have on the other people, plants and animals around us?
An excellent resource for this day is the Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving address. This Native American speech is given regularly to reaffirm the community’s commitment to each other, the planet, plants, and animals. With its simple but powerful language this would be great to work through with your class. The beginning of the address is as follows:
Today we have gathered and we see that the cycles of life continue. We have been given the duty to live in balance and harmony with each other and all living things. So now, we bring our minds together as one as we give greetings and thanks to each other as people.
Now our minds are one.
We are all thankful to our Mother, the Earth, for she gives us all that we need for life. She supports our feet as we walk about upon her. It gives us joy that she continues to care for us as she has from the beginning of time. To our mother, we send greetings and thanks.
Now our minds are one.
Gratitude is when we feel thankful for something. What are you thankful for today? How could you show your gratitude?