by H. Bryant
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To shift the focus so it is on what we do have rather than on what we do not.
Preparation and materials
- Choose some calm music and have the means to play it during the ‘Time for reflection’ section of the assembly to help the students think about the things they have to be grateful for.
- I wonder how many times a day you check Facebook . . . Twitter . . . Vine . . . Snapchat . . . Tumblr or Instagram?
If you have a smartphone, my guess is that you look at it at least once an hour, maybe even once every ten minutes? More maybe.
Have you ever thought what you are checking for? To see if someone is still your friend? My guess is you use it to see what is going on in other people’s lives.
- Now ask yourself why you are looking at what is going on in other people’s lives. Are you genuinely interested or are you actually a little but jealous?
Do they seem to have nicer clothes than you, nicer hair, live in a bigger house, have more fun than you do, are allowed out later than you are . . . ?
- Have you ever considered that all these social media might actually make you ungrateful for the things you do have? That they make you think everyone else’s lives are so much better than yours?
This feeling of envy and jealousy is not uncommon. As you get older, people inform me, Facebook and other such sites only seem to highlight what you don’t have. People post pictures of their wedding day, their newborn children, their children playing in the park. It is a fantastic way of communicating these happy events to those around you, but it also shows others very clearly the things that they do not have. For some people who desperately want those things, it can lead to feelings of depression and inadequacy. This happened long before social media and is not a new phenomenon, but, with access to Facebook and such sites now being as easy as checking your watch, it occurs with more startling regularity.
- Now, consider what you write on social media sites. Are your posts completely true reflections of you or just about the good stuff, what you want people to see, what you want them to see about you rather than how things are? As you do this, do you spend time feeling envious of others rather than being grateful for what you have? How carefully do you choose your images for social media? How carefully do you edit what goes on them?
- I want you to have a think now about something that you are grateful for.
Take some suggestions.
I sense that a lot of these things might be materialistic – you are grateful for your homes and so on. I wonder if any of you considered that you should be grateful for the fact you can hear my voice, you can see your hand in front of you, you woke up this morning safe and sound in your bed, you don’t have toothache, for your family, your chance to come to school today. It is so easy to look at what we don’t have and be envious of what others have and compare our lives to theirs.
- Within Buddhism, this kind of dissatisfaction is the truth that the Buddha realized and it helped him in the way to enlightenment. He fully understood that the very way we are as human beings means we will always want what we can’t have and continue to crave more and better things.
The way to get out of this is through meditation and to understand the impermanence of things. Another, probably easier way is to look at what we do have and be grateful for those things. Even though someone might be more popular, better looking, live in a bigger house – the list is endless – what we have is what makes us who we are, someone unique and special. That alone is something to be grateful for.
Time for reflection
Play the calm music chosen and allow a period of silence between each of the following statements.
Think again about what you have to be grateful for.
Revel in it.
Appreciate it and be grateful for it.
Thank you for all the things that I have.
Let me learn to be grateful for them, appreciate them and see them as the special things they really are.
Help me when I have moments of jealousy or envy to dismiss them and be grateful for all the wonderful things that I do have.
Calm music of your choice