This is my ninth post on civil discourse, and there will be a tenth next week, wrapping it all up. Today, we’re finishing our LEAP FROG acronym with the G.
I had this post written a few weeks ago. G was going to be for GOALS, for remembering the goals we began with. I even found this great little meme:
I wanted to end with GOALS because I thought I had begun there too.
I would harken you back to the original (GOOD) goals of civil discourse:
to learn, to understand, to grow
And I would recall for you the (BAD) goals:
to convert, to convince, to win
I had even made a quick reference to that other acronym we’ve all been taught, that a “good goal” is a S M A R T goal:
Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound
And I toyed with the idea of a five-part series around that.
Then, I remembered that most of my activism of late has revolved around Jennifer Hofmann’s Gratitude List, part of her weekly Action Lists.
Suggestions for Thank Yous for the week of April 2
• Thank Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) for publicly supporting Nunes’ recusal. Address: Rep. Walter Jones, 2333 Rayburn HOB, Washington, DC 20515
• Thank ExxonMobil for encouraging the US to stay in the Paris Agreement. Address: ExxonMobil Corporate Headquarters, 5959 Las Colinas Boulevard, Irving, TX, 75039-2298
• Thank Rep Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) for filing a resolution of inquiry to release 45’s tax returns. Address: 367 Valley Brook Ave, Lyndhurst, NJ 07071
• Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) believes in healthcare more than extreme ideologies. Applaud his decision to step down from the Freedom Caucus. Address: 1801 Kingwood Drive, Suite 240, Kingwood, TX 77339
• Thank Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) for putting women above politics by supporting clinics with Title X funding. – Sen. Murkowski, 510 L Street, Suite 600, Anchorage, AK 99501 – Sen. Collins, One Canal Plaza, Suite 802, Portland, ME 04101
Thank Yous for the week of April 9
• Thank Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) for his 15-hour filibuster to protest Gorsuch. Address: 121 SW Salmon St., Ste. 1400, Portland, OR 97204
• Thank Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) for his public reprimand of 45 for ignoring the Constitution and taking military action without Congressional approval. Address: 1029 State Street, Bowling Green, KY 42101
• Thank Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) for speaking out against our bombing of Syria. Address: 300 Ala Moana Blvd., Rm. 5-104; Honolulu, HI 96850
• Thank Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey for defending constitutionally-protected free speech. Address: 1355 Market Street. Suite 900, San Francisco, CA 94103
Thank Yous for the week of April 16
• Thank Rep. Maxine Waters for her inspiring leadership and for speaking up for democracy. Address: 10124 S Broadway #1, Los Angeles, CA 90003
• Thank Senators Bob Corker (R-TN) and Chris Coons (D-DE) for supporting food assistance to Sudan and opposing Trump’s foreign aid cuts. Address: (BC) Dirksen Senate Office Building, SD-425, Washington, DC 20510 Address: (CC) 127A Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510
Thank You suggestions for the week of April 23
• Thank NY mayor, Bill de Blasio, for tweeting his own taxes to show 45 how it’s done. Address: Mayor Bill de Blasio, City Hall, New York, NY 10007
• Thank Rep Stephanie Murphy (R-FL) for joining the bi-partisan Problem Solvers Caucus and her sane approach to leadership. Address: 1237 Longworth HOB, Washington, DC 20515
Thank You suggestions for the week of April 30
• Thank Chief Justice Roberts for raising concern about 45’s abuse of power in seeking to strip naturalized citizens of their legal citizenship for trivial matters. Immigrants matter. Address: SCOTUS, 1 First Street, NE, Washington, DC 20543
• Thank Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) for his leadership and integrity in calling attention to Scott Pruitt’s apparent violation of the Hatch Act. Address: 170 Westminster St # 1100, Providence, RI 02903
• Thank Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) for speaking out in support for the rule of law and against 45’s anti-immigrant agenda. Immigrants’ rights are human rights. Address: 90 State House Square, Hartford, CT 06103
Yes. There is much to be thankful for. So, I am starting anew.
G is for GRATITUDE
The rest of this post will focus on WHY gratitude is important, rather than on HOW to express it, or even WHERE (or WHAT or WHEN either). Simply, expressing gratitude, in and of itself, is good for you.
Forbes Magazine had a headlined article that caught my eye, How To Rewire Your Brain For Happiness, in March, 2015. Alas, it is no longer available online, so I can’t quote from it. Still, if Forbes headlined it, ….
Instead, I found Dr. Melanie Greenberg in Psychology Today who wrote How Gratitude Leads to a Happier Life, also in 2015, which sounded just as good.
Even better, I found a few quotes from an earlier piece she did on gratitude, which you can link to here.
Gratitude is an emotion of connectedness, which reminds us we are part of a larger universe with all living things.
Gratitude can lead to feelings of love, appreciation, generosity, and compassion, which further open our hearts and help rewire our brains to fire in more positive ways.
An emotion of connectedness! Connection became a large part of our conversation following last week’s post (O is for Observing, where I asked, “How do you know you’re being heard?”).
But I was also taken with her comment about the rewiring of our brains. I won’t get into the science. If you care to, here are some good links:
Rewiring the Brain for Happiness: The Neuroscience of Happiness by Kevin Corcoran (2015)
Counting Blessings Versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life, a study by Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough (2003).
Emmons has a more recent book, Thanks!: How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You Happier which reports, “Scientifically speaking, regular grateful thinking can increase happiness by as much as 25 percent.” Not just happiness, but better sleep and more energy (which are directly connected, it seems to me) can result in only three weeks of keeping a gratitude journal.
I’ve been a gratitude junkie for many years and have experienced its power to change how I approach problems, how I interpret them, and how I solve them. And so, as you might expect, I’ve applied this “attitude of gratitude” to our new political reality.
In addition to the targeting Thank You postcards that Jen suggested, I recognize how grateful I am to live in a country where we can hold critical, even divisive disagreements; where political disagreement is not only allowed or tolerated, but celebrated.
Closer to home, I recognize that when we discover someone who is able to hold a civil conversation with us about policies and even values on which we disagree, we are fortunate indeed. If you have found someone who will engage with you in a civil discourse, I hope you will thank them; it is a gift.
I’m grateful for the enormous uptick in political activism we have seen. Not only are contributions up across a huge swath of organizations with a wide range of missions important to me, I’m traveling more and meeting new people that I would not have met otherwise, all the direct result of November’s surprising election returns.
I’m grateful to see an increase in basic understanding of how our system works, an understanding that can only lead the steps needed to improve it. I’m thinking of the electoral college, redistricting Congressional districts (aka gerrymandering), the crazy-making rules that currently exist within the Congress, and the way in which money has tainted the political process from the ground on up.
There is much to be done to move our country forward and there will be even more by the time the midterm elections roll around a year from now. But there now exists the energy and the will to accomplish much. I have hope. And for that I am also grateful.
How about you? What are you grateful for these days?
Next week: We’ll wrap up this series on civil discourse.
In two weeks I’ll introduce a group of international women. Some of them are personal friends that I see often here in Vermont. A few of them are new to me, having only met them recently through social media. And one you’ve met in my memoir, At Home on the Kazakh Steppe. They all have one very special thing in common, which we will be discussing over the next few weeks.
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