The worse the world gets, the greater my gratitude

Despite a year of unimaginable challenges, there is still so much to be thankful for.

Udita Jonnala

Despite a year of unimaginable challenges, there is still so much to be thankful for.

Eva Shen and Shereen Ahmed


2020: what a year. And it’s not even over yet.

Between lamenting over the past, worrying about the future, and biting our nails down to stubs in the present (it’s election day as I write this), Thanksgiving can feel like a cruel joke. Or 2020 is a punchline.

An entire holiday devoted to gratitude feels like a high expectation amidst a global pandemic, severe wildfires, and nerve-wracking elections. Not to mention the monotony of online school, the lack of interaction with friends, the cancellation of sports seasons, the separation of family members, etc. The list of negatives could stretch on for miles. 

But that’s easy. Coming up with a list of gratitudes— now, that’s hard. And it’s worthwhile. At the risk of sounding cheesy and slightly intolerably, this year it is more important than ever to be grateful. 

Our gratitudes this year have the potential to be lifelines. Sitting down and thinking, really and truly, about the innumerous gratitudes we have can make all the difference.

Our gratitudes this year have the potential to be lifelines. Sitting down and thinking, really and truly, about the innumerous gratitudes we have can make all the difference.


A Happy Heart is a Thankful Heart  

I could feel the wind tickle against my cheek as I was striding along the freshly cut grass trying to catch up with my family during our routine daily walk. 

It was another part of our quarantine addition, my mom read somewhere that if a human gets even 20 minutes of outside fresh air a day, it can make a big impact on their emotional and physical health. So when she introduced the idea to us, we all jumped right to it because we were bored inside.

My sisters were making a joke about how a boring dinosaur will call himself a dino-sour. Haha, get it? We all laughed because we wanted to make them feel good.

I stayed behind having to tie my shoes while my family kept going ahead because I told them it would only take a minute. Do you know how sometimes people say time is really up to you? It can at times go really slowly or really fast; this was a moment in life where the time went incredibly slow.

It was like life had suddenly become a slow-mo feature from Snapchat. It was at that moment I realized how grateful I was and how much I had.

I saw a healthy family right in front of me, four beautiful human beings who have made such a big impact on my life. I have a dad who would sacrifice his sleep so his kids have a roof on top of their heads. I have a mom who wakes up at six in the morning to make us food and works tirelessly even when she has a 100.3-degree fever. My sister’s laughter fills the home up with constant warmth and relief. I have these amazing people in my life, so who am I to complain? 

I have a place to come home to every day in which I feel safe and comfortable in my surroundings. I have food on the table, a cozy bed to sleep in and most importantly, I have my health.

I am tearing up just writing this, but one thing I have realized during the pandemic is how humbled I should actually be. At times, the things I complain about can be so minuscule when it comes to looking at the big picture in life. 


The Little Things

From on top of the hill, I could see all of it unfold: the hills stretching, the cows on the ridge, the houses and streets jumbled into empty neighborhoods, streetlights blinking tiredly in the distance. This was in May, and the streets were piercingly silent without the white noise of car tires. In each of the little boxes below, out of sight, a family went on with their lives. This place, this silent empty place, never felt more like home.

These little moments, the moments that slip by almost without noticing. Those are the moments that, beyond all the crap and negativity, define the year of 2020. It is a year of fragments, of being able to snatch onto those tiny pieces of hope.

As Anne of Green Gables once said: “I believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens but just those that bring simple little pleasures, following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string.” 

“I am grateful for the extra time that I get to spend with my newborn baby,” Dougherty Valley High School Precalculus teacher Mrs. Parisa Lindgren said. “I haven’t missed any of the experiences. I’ve seen her start her solids, I’ve seen her crawl, seen her start talking. I haven’t missed a moment, and that’s not something two working parents usually get to do.”

These little moments— the pearls— help alleviate the shattered necklace that is 2020. And while teaching online has been hectic, it has also offered a chance for healing for many teachers.

“I’m grateful for the time to explore nature around my house, taking my workouts outdoors has given me the chance to see more of the beauty and nature that is the Bay Area,” said Dougherty Valley High School AP U.S. History teacher Ms. Jeanne Scheppach. “I’m grateful for all the creative people out there who have put their services online and brought humor as well to the situation, from Jimmy Fallon to SNL to workshops that I normally could not attend because they are far away— everything now is right at my finger tips and I am so grateful for this.” 

“I am grateful for… students who persevere through the challenges of this year and still try their best and come to class with an occasional smile,” said Dougherty Valley High School AP Biology teacher Ms. Pam Sheppel. “And I am grateful for the teachers on my team who have been there every day to work together to make the best of this crazy year!”

The act of reflecting over the past year, of considering the changes and the struggles and the gratitudes, has helped bring to light some new realizations. 

“The pace of life is one that I am loving and honestly don’t want to go back to what it was like before. This is a better me in so many ways,” said Ms. Scheppach.