Gratitude is more than thankfulness


The following blog is taken from the ethics speech that Jelani Cross '19 (above) delivered to his Upper School teachers and peers. Each year, several seniors give these speeches about a belief or experience that impacts the way they lead their life. Jelani is an AP student, member of the Brown & White yearbook staff, musician in the Upper School symphonic band, and member of this year's Varsity Football team.

Earlier this year Johnny (Gherman '19) spoke about working in a team and being able to ask for help. Mr. (Joe) Canty then spoke about widening your circle and being more inclusive, which will allow you to ask more people for help in your times of need. Today I'm going to talk about gratitude.

Gratitude can come in many forms and be conveyed about many different things. Let me ask you a question: how many of you can honestly say, without a shadow of a doubt, that everything that has happened to you is solely because of you? If not, than that means that someone, whether it be a parent, a sibling, a friend or a mentor, has given you something. And once you got it, what did you do with it? Usually, a human's brain moves at one hundred miles per hour, so if we get something, we're already thinking about the next thing – like we're filling spots on a checklist.

I know I should have done this at the beginning, but I would like to thank Mr. (Ray) Wright for the opportunity to speak to you all today. Of course, we say thank you once we receive things, but I'd like to propose that we show our gratitude in more meaningful ways rather than just saying thank you. I could just take this opportunity for granted, fly through this speech and give you all a superficial "cherish what you have before it's gone." But if it doesn't resonate with you, then what's the point of even saying it? I think that I was asked to speak today because I, hopefully, have a good message and a pretty good way to convey it to all of you. So to show my gratitude I want to use my gifts to give you guys a message that will hopefully stick with you past fourth period. That's just one thing you can show your gratitude for.

Now let me tell you the story of a young, foolish Jelani. Christmas 2015 is the setting. I had just got up and was wondering if it was too early to wake my parents, so I reached over and grabbed my Android to check the clock. At the time, I had been catching some slack for having an Android, and my mom knew this. So what did she do? Like most nosey, overbearing parents, she decided to step in and buy me an iPhone 6s. I was so ecstatic that I almost dropped it as soon as I took it out of the box! I gave her a huge hug and ran into my room to set everything up.

Fast forward to the summer of 2016. I had just arrived at my friend's beach house with his family, and the only thing that I wanted to do was jump in the ocean. We changed into our trunks, got all of our beach supplies, and walked out to the beach. I set down some beach chairs, sprinted into the water, and did a front flip. I swam around a little bit, but something felt off. I had that feeling that I had forgotten something really important.

As I walked out of the ocean, my right leg felt unusually heavy for some reason. I patted my thigh, and my heart sunk. I realized my phone had been in my pocket the whole time.

So what's the moral of this story? I got an amazing gift, but I thoughtlessly made an error that caused me to lose the very thing that I didn't appreciate.

Gratitude is more than just being thankful. It's being able to cherish what you have been given, not take it for granted, and, if possible, use it for something outside of yourself. Whether it be something monetary like getting money from your mom for Chipotle and giving the change to a homeless person, a metaphysical thing like using your talents to perform at a charity event to raise money, or even keeping track of your blazer because you know your parents spent a lot of money on it, we can show our gratitude much better than we can ever express it with words. Thank you.