Blog Post: ‘Tis the Season to Celebrate

“Tis the Season to Celebrate – Kindness and Gratitude
By Ed DeRoche

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.

~John Fitzgerald Kennedy

This blog is the result of a Thanksgiving dinner conversation with ten kids–two in elementary school, four in middle school, and four in high school. The stories and tales the kids were sharing with one another about their school experiences, including peers and teachers were of great interest to me. I was proud of the kids and their views about two virtues that they didn’t address directly but certainly underscored what they were sharing with one another—kindness and gratitude.

Their conversation stuck with me. I wanted to follow-up and to find out what others are saying and reporting about these two virtues. As luck would have it, I found three interesting resources. The first, an article in Scientific American (February 26, 2009) titled “Forget Survival of the Fittest: It Is Kindness That Counts.” I have taken the liberty to add: “Gratitude” to this short summary.

The article features an interview with Dacher Keltner author of Born to be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life. Keltner noted that humans have remarkable tendencies toward kindness, play, generosity, reverence, (gratitude) and self-sacrifice.

The interviewer asked Keltner about “take aways “ from his study. One was that Darwin descriptions of emotions lead to his (Keltner) science-based conclusion that emotions are “the core of our capacities for virtue and cooperation” love and tenderness,” and other virtues. Keltner suggests that emotions that bring out the “good in others and in one’s self can readily be cultivated” (taught and learned, observed and practiced, modeled and mentored).

Secondly, I discovered a report by researchers at Berkeley regarding a survey of 400 students ages 12-14 in which they found that students “who were more likely to be grateful to others ((I am adding “kindness” here) showed higher academic interest, grades, and extracurricular involvement, and had lower interest in risky behaviors.” Positive parent relationships was also associated with gratitude (and probably with many habits of the heart including “kindness.”)

Then in the middle of writing this blog, one of our Center’s board members sends me a video of San Diego’s Superintendent, Cindy Marten, addressing teachers on the topic of why “Kindness Matters.” It is like I planned this to be the highlight of this blog. I cannot do justice in a summary of what she says and why she says it. So, here is the link. I urge you to take the time to listen to it.

Kindness is not an inherited trait; it is a learned behavior.— Katie Couric

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