Gratitude on Thanksgiving

This week I spent some time working with juveniles who are incarcerated at a local detention center for various crimes.

A good portion of them are incarcerated for drug related offenses or assault and battery.

These kids ranged between 14 and 17 years of age, and while none of them are perfect, in my opinion, they were all good kids who need guidance and someone who believes in them and someone they can trust.

All of them will be spending today, Thanksgiving, away from their families. Families that most of them have hurt and did not appreciate until they were removed from them.

It’s interesting how when I asked who can they trust, 66% of the girls said their mother was their best friend and all of those girls were incarcerated for assaulting their mothers.

Most of the juveniles were sad about being away from their families and friends for Thanksgiving, but I wanted to remind them that despite their circumstances, they still had a lot to be grateful for.

Many of them had a hard time with the ideal of gratitude while they were wearing maroon colored, county issued uniforms and locked into a facility with a bunch of strangers and guards.

I had to remind them, that most of them had families who loved them and were still there for them, despite all they had put them through, and they should be grateful for that.

Many of them would be getting out in a few weeks, and they should be grateful for that.

They were all still healthy and young, and they should be grateful for that.

And perhaps most importantly, they were all still alive and capable of reversing their course in life for the better, and they should be grateful for that.

Most of them have plans to do things differently when they get out and plan to never return, but a couple of them admitted that they didn’t think they could change and I felt sorry for them because the ability to change first starts with the desire to change and the thought and belief that you can change. Without that, change is impossible, no matter how many other people want it for you.

I hoped that teaching them about gratitude would help them appreciate what they have and open their hearts to love, compassion and giving to others, all things that will go a long way in their pursuit of changing for the better.

This day and everyday, take a minute to think about the things you are thankful for. Write them down if you’d like (a gratitude journal is a great idea), and let the people you are grateful for know that.

-“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.”
– Oprah Winfrey

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