Gratitude in Times of Crises

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Joanna Tebbs Young

As I lay in bed wondering what I would write for this column today, I was going through the things I could, and probably need, to write about. I often write out of a basic need to get in touch with and understand what it is I’m feeling. In the process of “thinking through writing” I achieve two things: help myself accept those emotions, whatever those often conflicting feelings may be, and gain perspective and a stronger personal opinion regarding whatever it is I’m writing about.

And yes, there are many — so many — things I need to gain perspective on. Our world seems to be in perpetual tumult at the moment. Every morning my phone alerts me to some new atrocity or a mind-blowing development in an ongoing one. Scrolling through social media or listening to the news is a informational and emotional overload.

Just today, I could discuss any one of the following: the horror of another mass shooting; the sickening refusal of our government to ban hand weapons of war outside the military; the need for better mental-health care; the gutting of health care, including the expiration of the funding of CHIP, the children’s health insurance program; the destruction and rising death toll in Puerto Rico; the continued call for banning Muslims from finding refuge in our country; police brutality against blacks; the all-or-nothing mindset that if one is against said brutality (or any other issue) you must be anti-police (or anti-whatever is supposedly the “other” in the situation); global warming denial; the violent rise of neo-nazism… Enough! This list is getting too long and I know I’ve missed out so much more that we are all, sadly, far too well aware of.

It occurred to me that to help counter all this sorrow and anger and instability, some gratitude might help. Gratitude is a proven healer. Looking for the positive in one’s life is not a dismissal of the not-so-positive, it is a way to help maintain balance, so we don’t sink so far down that we become immobilized in a place of desperation, fear, pain, or hatred. Those who become blocked in such a way cannot help themselves or anyone else move forward to a place of positive change and growth. (I saw this morning on Facebook that VPR’s “Vermont Edition” had a similar idea, not gratitude, but asking listeners to share things that have bought them joy this past week.)

So, here it goes, with a nod to Steve Costello’s 100 Things to Do Around Rutland List, here’s my As Many Things I Am Personally Grateful For Living In Rutland As I Can Write Before I Hit My Word Limit List:

1. Being able to walk into town to get my morning coffee, buy a book, grab the most insanely good maple-chocolate twist creemee ever, buy a gift, go out to eat for fire-baked pizza or a fish chimichanga or banana cream pie, or buy a new outfit (among the many other things downtown has to offer).

2. Watching the mountains which surround us paint themselves into a mottled red-gold canvas.

3. Living in a town whose police department is working with the community to help lower crime and drug activity, as well as those organizations and individuals working ceaselessly to help those affected directly and indirectly by it.

4. Being able to send my child to a high school which offers integrated coursework and outstanding programs by dedicated teachers, especially — of personal of interest to my family — in the arts. Also, the offerings of the Encore program during the summer months.

5. Having access to the many, high-quality offerings of the Recreation Department throughout the year, but particularly in the summer, including kids’ programming and concerts on the green.

6. The loving people who spent time and energy and money to make sure our new Syrian neighbors were (and will continue to be) welcomed into our community.

7. The dedicated farmers and craftspeople who make both our summer and winter farmer markets a destination. And to those working with the VFFC to bring fresh food and food education into all our neighborhoods.

8. Living in the city which can brag about its Halloween parade for good reason — Skellies! And all the magnificent, creative floats every year.

9. Murals! Keep ‘em coming! A city with art is a city with heart!

10. Being able, within a few minutes’ walk or a short drive, to “lose” myself in the woods or by the water, whether at Pine Hill Park or Lefferts Pond, somewhere on Killington, or any other of the myriad trails this area can boast.

11. The performing arts offerings at the Paramount Theatre, from the Vermont Symphony Orchestra, Vermont Actors Repertory Theatre, the various choirs and singing groups, at live music venues around town, from comedians and storytellers, dance troupes, and small musical jam circles.

12. Living in a place that is willing to close a main street to build a sledding run or put down grass sod or have a dog parade or turn it into a parking lot for hot rods because, hey, why not?!

13. Belonging to a community which has members who not only feed a lost cat (or dog), but take its photo and post it on Facebook so others can share it and the loved pet can be reunited with its worried owner.

So, that’s NOT all folks! What are you grateful for?

Keep working for peace and love and unity in whatever circles of community you are in. Saner times will eventually come (we have to believe they will!)

Joanna Tebbs Young, MA-TLA

Joanna Tebbs Young is a freelance writer, author, and expressive writing coach living in Rutland. Email her at

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