June 24, 2024
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June 24, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Seeing the Blessings Through the Clouds

It goes without saying that 2020 has not been what any of us imagined. Now into month eight of the pandemic, it’s easy to feel fatigued from the numerous and cumulative challenges of the last several months.

During what was a particularly trying week last week, I recalled the words of Fred Rogers, who was once quoted as saying, “When we talk about our feelings, they will become less overwhelming, less upsetting and less scary.” Perhaps, I thought, if I gave voice to some of the challenges I was experiencing, I’d begin to feel better.

What I ended up realizing was that honoring my frustrations was not only successful in helping me feel better, it actually helped me feel good about some of the not-so-normal things that are happening in our world. I found that frustration can transform into gratitude with just a pivot in perspective. So today, I will be sharing all that I am not grateful for, in order to reveal that behind those clouds lies all for which I am grateful.

In our staggered arrival and dismissal plan, I am outside for two hours a day. My hands and feet are numb with cold, and rainy weather certainly doesn’t help. But I am so grateful that I have the opportunity to personally greet every single child in our Early Learning Center every single day, and chat with so many of the ELC teachers during those two hours.

At times I find myself running on fumes with the extended hours that are the reality of being a school administrator during a pandemic. Managing the need to be at school very early in the morning and not arriving home before 7 p.m. every day, while also navigating everything in between, is exhausting to an unprecedented degree. And yet I am relentlessly grateful that our students have full, rich days in person, every day. Nothing is more worthwhile.

I am frustrated that I cannot visit classes for long periods of time. But I am grateful that children have their phenomenal, heroic teachers to care for them all day long.

I am disappointed that circumstances have prevented me from having the breadth of meaningful interactions with students that I typically have, and that I will not be able to get to know them more deeply as a result. And yet I am so grateful that our ELC teachers know their children even better than in years past because of the smaller class sizes and our pod structure.

I am sad that Thanksgiving will look very different this year. But I am grateful that each of us will be able to disconnect for a few much needed days off. And, as we try to fit and adjust older traditions into these unique circumstances while also finding ourselves creating temporary and perhaps new and lasting traditions, I remember that the purpose of those traditions—old and new—is to deepen our connections and remind ourselves that there is much to be thankful for.

I am thankful for so much. I love Thanksgiving and all it stands for, and I am looking forward to it, as I do every year, even though this time it will look so different. I think my experience last week, and the perspective it provided me, really speaks to the essence of gratitude. It behooves us, for our own happiness and well-being, to try to see the whole picture and find the bright spots and blessings for which to be grateful when we look past the clouds. I think this ideal will serve us well as we march toward the end of the mess that will forever be known as 2020, and the hope for better days ahead in 2021.


Alana Rifkin Gelnick is principal of the Early Learning Center at SAR Academy.

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