Some of you may remember our former pastor, Monsignor Neal Dolan, who served the St. Michael’s Parish Community from 2001 – 2014. One of Monsignor’s signature homilies was about developing an “Attitude of Gratitude.” He frequently reminded us that if we intentionally take time each day to reflect on the things for which we are thankful, we will not be so overcome by our struggles and challenges. We often take for granted our abundance of blessings: family, friends, a home, food, and a multitude of “toys.” These gifts are not commonplace for everyone, and our children are growing up with expectations and a sense of entitlement that may be unhealthy.
It is human nature to focus on the negative. The news media certainly doesn’t help, with its constant reminders about global conflicts, the economy, and immigration challenges, to name a few. Couple that with our personal concerns, whether it be financial struggles, health issues, or personal conflicts, and we tend to get stuck in a destructive trend. These stressors are sometimes called “triggers,” and these situations can sometimes lead to adverse emotional reactions.
Recently, I have come across the term “glimmers,” which is the opposite of “triggers.” The term glimmers, coined by Deb Dana, a licensed clinical social worker, refers to small moments that can spark joy or peace, which can help cue our nervous system to feel safe or calm. Dana says that glimmers can be found in different places, using different senses, such as flowers, trees, stars, a stranger’s smile, a loved one’s voice, petting/holding an animal, a favorite song, for example. Dana states, “You feel something happen inside…there’s an energy that happens around a glimmer.”
You may be familiar with an old Cherokee story about “The Battle of the Two Wolves.” An elderly grandfather explains to his grandson that inside each of us is a great battle between two wolves. One wolf represents evil: anger, sorrow, lies, and envy. The other represents goodness: love, joy, peace, and faith. The grandson asks, “Which wolf will win?” to which the grandfather replies, “The one you feed.”
Children are very intuitive, and they often imitate adult behavior without realizing what they are doing. While it is important to recognize and try to overcome the struggles we face, it is also important to counteract the negative with the positive aspects in our lives. Children need to practice this because it will not come naturally. Understanding that there is far more for which to be grateful than to be sad will go a long way in helping our children’s mental health, now and in the future.
So, when your child hops in the car at the end of each day, please ask them to first tell you about all of the wonderful things that happened at school. There will be time to discuss the struggles a bit later.