“Gratitude for and with others” – Morgan Vacca ’23

This semester, I have spent time getting to know the students and professionals involved with the Worcester Public Schools Transition Program. The Worcester Public Schools Transition Program seeks to promote self-sufficiency for 18-22 year old students facing a wide range of intellectual and physical challenges. Ultimately, through my virtual involvement in this wonderful group, I’ve learned about the power of gratitude in these unprecedented times. 

As I began my involvement with WPS, I found that virtually meeting everyone and getting to know the program would be a challenge. The craziness of “muting” and wifi connection certainly proved themselves as strong barriers to normalcy. After my first meeting, I remember being frustrated about the number of conversations that had been interrupted by technological difficulties. As the semester progressed, though, we worked together to solve these problems. We developed virtual projects to work on with Google Slides, we created artwork together, played get-to-know you games, and even laughed at some of the technical difficulties that were once so stressful. 

It was only when I started appreciating the creativity and teamwork that resulted from our struggles when I truly understood the power of gratitude. Before this experience, I had previously thought of gratitude in terms of materiality: being grateful for the things you have that others might not. I was certainly grateful for the material things in my life, and found that acknowledging this wealth of materiality was a benefit to my mindset. However, while gratitude can be material, it’s not always about “things.” 

As I continued to ponder the concept of gratitude, I realized that feeling grateful for simply being with the WPS Transition Program is what made my time so special. Appreciating every moment of our meetings, even through a computer screen, not only improved the quality of my contributions to myself and to others, but improved the quality of the connections I was making. Gratitude is the exact reason why our semester was successful; we faced a number of challenges, but were able to solve them by appreciating the opportunity to be with each other. For this reason, gratitude can’t be something we reserve for dinner conversations on Thanksgiving or gift-giving on Christmas. In this virtual world, it’s easy to lose any hope of making enjoyable connections or discoveries. However, by simply practicing gratitude, I realized that the connection and discovery we’re so deeply craving has been at our fingertips this whole time. If we truly maintain a sense of awe about the present moment, we realize how wonderful it really is, and are able to seize the endless opportunities it brings.

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