Return, Practice, and Gratitude

Return, Practice, and Gratitude

October 8, 2019
By: 
The Rev. Canon Heather L. Melton, Staff Officer for the United Thank Offering

joy is vulnerableAutumn is in full bloom as I sit down to write this, and it is my favorite season. There is something about the cooler air, the changing leaves, and the shorter days that I deeply love. So, after a wonderful sabbatical, it feels right to return to work when the environment reminds us that everything is changing. This summer was a wonderful gift to me and to my family. The girls loved having mommy home and not working, and we were able to do some travelling and visiting with folks that we probably would not have had time to do otherwise. Having the time to connect and be fully present with my family was wonderful, so when it came time to head off for my continuing education course, it was hard to leave, but exciting as well.

This summer, I attended The Daring Way™ facilitators’ training with the Brené Brown Education and Research Group (BBEARG for short). This course, for me, began in the spring with online classes and tests on all of Dr. Brown’s books. Once I passed this portion of the course, I was then ready to go to San Antonio, Texas for the in-person training. I will be honest with you – it was very overwhelming to be in a room with 75 amazing leaders of nonprofits, licensed therapists, and industry leaders from school counselors to career military. I clearly remember looking around and wondering if I was in the right room. Once we broke into small groups, I made some really wonderful friends and got to experience the power of working through The Daring Way™ and Rising Strong™ curriculum. (In case you’re wondering what this is: “The Daring Way™ is an empirically based training and certification program for helping professionals, based on the research of Dr. Brené Brown. The work focuses on courage building, shame resilience, and uncovering the power of vulnerability. The methodology is designed for work with individuals, couples, families, and groups.”) There were tears, there was laughter, and there was great joy in the journey. One evening we got out of our training and went on the San Antonio boat tour, which was a great deal of fun, especially because I was with folks from all over the world and none of us had ever been to the city before. After our time in San Antonio was finished (and a quick stop to see the Alamo and pick up fun things to bring home for the girls), I headed home to begin the final month of the training. Shortly before my sabbatical ended, I successfully completed the training and am now a Certified Daring Way™ Facilitator Candidate! This means that, over the course of the next year, I’ll be working with a consultant who will help me put this work into practice. It also means that I’m now looking for places or groups that are interested in participating in one (or both) of the trainings. Thank you to those who have already asked to do one of these trainings with me!

So, you may be wondering what this has to do with gratitude… Well, for me, it has a lot to do with gratitude. One of the things that I have come to realize through the work of practicing gratitude and encouraging others to do the same is that gratitude requires vulnerability. We cannot thank someone without also recognizing our interdependence – that we need each other – and that can make some people feel very vulnerable. Gratitude can also, unintentionally, create shame. For those of us who live in the United States, especially in the West, we often have a sense that we should be able to do things for ourselves, what we often call a “bootstraps” mentality. Gratitude recognizes that we need each other, and oftentimes, it recognizes that a person or even a community has shown up in a moment of great need in our lives, and accepting help, for some, can trigger shame. I also have begun to think a lot about how gratitude and self-care are intertwined. Asking for what we need to be healthy, happy, and fully alive can make us feel very vulnerable, but it also can open the door for gratitude. It is easier to be thankful for the gifts of God all around us when we are taking care of ourselves. Dr. Brown also talks about the importance of gratitude as a way of pushing back against those times when our mind wants to interrupt joy with worry (she calls that “foreboding joy”). A few years back, the UTO Board and staff began engaging with Dr. Brown’s books, and we have found that so much of it helps guide our work, choices, and relationships. All this is to say, I believe that there is a profoundly deep connection between this work and gratitude, and I am very excited to do some of that thinking with all of you over the years to come.

It was a really wonderfully rich summer, but I would be remiss in telling you all about the big things without telling you about the people who made it happen. Thank you to the UTO Board and staff, especially Sherri, Joyce, Kathy, Michelle, Katelyn, and Isabelle, without whom I would not have been able to not worry about projects (and we’ve got some really exciting ones coming!!) and plans that were moving forward over the summer. Thank you to my fantastic boss, the Rev. Melanie Mullen, who is constantly supportive and understanding of me as a person and of UTO, all the while being a great cheerleader for trying new things, working together, and making things happen. Thank you to my family, who put up with me being at home all the time and who entertained every crazy idea I had, while also giving me the quiet time to spend hours on the computer each week learning about shame, vulnerability, and rising up when we fall down. Thank you to every one of you who gets up every morning and steps into the arena, lives with courage, and knows that failure isn’t a measure of worth. You make the world a better place each time you do it, and you help those of us who might not be so brave to join you.

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