Transitions: The unmatched power of gratitude

I was scrolling through Instagram early this morning when I stumbled across a post from Taya Kyle, wife of decorated and deceased American hero, Chris Kyle. She had posted a short video with a caption emphasizing a call-to-action: Be. Grateful. Taya’s story was very simple – In 2012, when much of the economy and workforce presented with more questions than answers, she found herself wishing away time. She remembered thinking, “I’ll be glad when this year is done”. Well, 2012 did eventually conclude for Taya and her family, and less than two months into 2013 her husband was killed in a tragic event that dominated news cycles nationwide.

How many of us have wished time away?

How many of us can think back to a time when all we wanted was to press fast-forward?

Guilty and guilty.

With the world operating in ways that no one has experienced before, it can be easy to want to wish away time. Our friends, family members, neighbors and colleagues have all been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic — many in ways that we won’t be able to understand for some time and others, in ways that hit so close to home that we can almost taste their pain, anxiety and grief. If you’re reading this and you’ve suffered loss, please know that my heart goes out to you. We will get through this.

My call-to-action resembles a resounding echo of the sincere words of Taya Kyle, with just enough of the great Dr. Maya Angelou sprinkled over the top for good measure. Shortly before her death in 2014, Dr. Angelou proclaimed, “Today is a wonderful day. I have never seen this one before”. Short, sweet and to a point that cannot be overstated. Our ability to be thankful, to exude gratitude in the face of unrelenting adversity and hardship, is one of the fundamental building blocks of our character. Grace, humility and thankfulness cannot be contingent on the presence of positive circumstances in our own lives. They must be our lens in which we choose to observe the world, the noise, all around us. When we do this, we intentionally create endless opportunities to be kind, to share and care for members of our community.

Since TCC has moved our physical operations to a remote modality, I’ve been fortunate enough to observe our College staff, faculty and students – our family – come together in ways that inspire me to operate at my absolute best. As part of my professional role, I receive and review each application that is submitted at TCC Northeast for the College’s Eliminating Barriers (EB) award program. The EB Initiative, which began in 2019, allows our students who may be experiencing financial hardship as a result of a personal emergency the ability to apply for once-yearly funding to help overcome the hardship. I am wholly thankful for the students I have had the opportunity to meet and work with as a result of my involvement in the program. I’m speaking to those students when I say that I want you to know that your stories matter – that each of you matter.

The Great Equalizer: Perspective

I received an EB application shortly after Spring Break from a young woman at the College. We’ll call her Kaya. Kaya had applied for emergency financial assistance to help address a wave of upcoming bills that she was going to have a difficult time paying. As is the story for so many folks, she had been terminated from her job as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and was left to wonder how she would be able to take care of her children. Over the course of three days, Kaya and I worked together to complete her application. A generous amount of financial assistance was, frankly, just a few clicks away before something strange happened. As we nearly finished her application, I received the following message from Kaya –

“Hi Pete. I’d like to withdraw my application as I have been able to find stable employment. I no longer need assistance at this time. It’s my hope that this opportunity will now be open to someone else who may not be as fortunate as me. Thank You.”

– Kaya

Well, shoot. I’d be a liar if I didn’t mention that Kaya’s response stopped me dead in my tracks. “Fortunate”? She had just lost her job. She’s struggling to provide for her family. She’s grinding away to make ends meet and she feels – fortunate. Wow. In the few moments after I had received and read Kaya’s response, I cried. I cried and I considered how I had fallen so short of Kaya’s example in my own life – in my own circles of influence. The message from Kaya was one of the many inconspicuous daily reminders that are all-to-easy to miss if our minds are closed. Know better. Do better.

Kaya’s struggle is all too familiar to countless students in our community; her story, one of magnificent grace, and her character: one to exemplify.

Be grateful my friends. Today is a wonderful day. We’ve never seen this one before. Though it may be scary, we can’t possibly know what blessings abound if we don’t make the effort to intentionally look around.,

Be Taya. Be Maya. Be Kaya.

Pete’s greatest accomplishment is marrying his high school sweetheart, Sarah. They have three children.  When blessed with down time, from work and working towards his Ed.D. (2021), he enjoys hunting, golfing, or enjoying a pint of black raspberry chocolate chunk ice cream.