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Be Grateful for the Gifts Around You

By Ben Leclerc, Grade 12
I want to talk about a powerful emotion that has the potential to change lives and shape our world for the better: gratitude. Gratitude is a simple yet profound feeling of thankfulness and appreciation for the blessings, kindness, and opportunities we encounter in our lives. It is an attitude that can bring happiness, contentment and a sense of fulfillment. 
I have not always been the most optimistic, and I have often wanted to have more, better, faster, which at the end of the day has often led me to feel unsatisfied. To be honest, I may have been looking at it wrong. Yes, things have not always turned the way I wanted in life. And I used to feel so much anger and resentment because all I could focus on was everything I didn’t get, everything that was missing from the picture that I imagined as perfect. Better grades. More ice time. Prettier clothes. A higher position on the scoresheet. I was so focused on what was missing that I could barely see what I had been blessed with: health, home, family, friends and everything else that is not essential but that is adding value to my life. 
Last year, I lost my grandma. It all happened very quickly. She suddenly became very sick, and within less than a year, she was gone. One thing that has impressed me is that no matter what hell she was going through when she was sick, not once did I ever hear her complain about it. It made me realize that my perspective might have been wrong. That life was good, regardless of my grades or the number of points that I had. I realized that being healthy and having a loving and supportive family as well as a handful of significant friendships are what matter the most, especially when your life gets turned upside-down by tragic events, such as illness and loss of loved ones. I realized that if I saw what was actually in my picture instead of focusing on what was missing from it, my life would still be the same, but I would feel much happier about it. So ever since my grandma passed away, I have included in my bedtime routine a moment to be grateful about things that are going well in my life.
When we practice gratitude, it has a ripple effect. It does not only benefit our own well-being and happiness, but it also extends to the people around us. Practicing gratitude affects our attitude in a positive way, which in turn has the power of uplifting others around us. Gratitude also helps us to see beyond the immediate circumstances, as we learn to focus on much deeper or greater blessings. When we stop wasting energy on complaining about what we are not satisfied about, and instead make the effort to identify what brings us happiness, we are left with so much more energy that it gives us strength to overcome obstacles and find silver linings in darker situations.

I encourage my fellow students to take a moment to reflect on the abundance of blessings that surround us. Let us express our gratitude for the opportunities that have come our way, for the lessons hidden behind the failures and the blessings in disguise, and for the people who have supported and loved us unconditionally.
One thing is for sure: tomorrow is not promised. In fact, I realize now how four years can go by so fast. It seems like yesterday I stepped foot on campus for the first time. Back then, I was an angry kid, and to me, gratitude was only a word that Mrs. Carruthers would say before family style lunch. Now, with only a few days left as a student here, I understand how fortunate I am to have been here. I have received an excellent education, I have been blessed with lifelong friendships, and even if there have been harder situations, I know time and reflection will eventually help me find a silver lining.  
I would like to express gratitude to those who have supported me for the past four years here in Stanstead: my parents, my siblings, Gloria, my boys, my coaches, my teachers, my house directors, Mr. Pimm for being a second dad and best advisor, Mr. Spirk and Ms. Garrett for seeing the good in me before everyone else, the TODs (shoutout to Ms. Guerrera), and everyone else who has made my journey here an incredible one.

May we never take for granted the life we have been given, and may we always find reasons to be grateful.