Many of you have met my dog Sam. He is a shaggy, medium-size dog with a gentle disposition. We welcomed Sam to our family three years ago when my son was about to start middle school. Middle school can be a pretty miserable time: between puberty, the social drama, and the increased academic workload, this transition from childhood to young adulthood can be really tricky. So we got a dog – a middle school therapy dog.
From the get-go, I questioned the sanity of that decision. Dogs are a lot of work. And while the kids were dependable and dedicated to his care and feeding at the beginning, they soon needed prodding to tend to his needs. But it turns out Sam was worth it. This full-time, on-call social worker has given my family a treasured gift: the gift of the family walk. But it turns out you don’t need to have a dog to enjoy the riches of this gift – the dog just makes it obligatory.
Sam gets walked around the neighborhood several times a day. I walk him early every morning through the darkness with friends, then we all take turns walking him during the course of the day. Sometimes we walk alone at our own pace, enjoying the solitude and the scenery provided by the changing seasons. But most of the time, when I ask the kids if they would like to come, one will happily join me. We walk and talk and notice the spider webs and the changing colors. We talk about school and friends and places we want to go or things that are not going well. We see friends and stop to chat. There are no phones, no screens and no distractions as we stretch our bodies and enjoy each other’s company. There are cool down walks, study break walks, burn off some craziness walks, and quiet, tearful walks.
I used to walk the neighborhood with my children when they were very young, to pass the long stretches of time between lunch and dinner. Those stretches of time appear in our schedule less and less frequently, but because the dog needs to be walked, we have no choice but to walk. During this season of Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for my dog, my children, my neighborhood, and for the time I spend, unhurried and present, listening, laughing, and walking with my family. This November, I encourage you and your family to explore your neighborhood and realize the treasured gift of a family walk.
I’ve often heard it wished that more people would ‘keep Christmas in their hearts all year,’ and while that would be nice, my favorite holiday is actually Thanksgiving, and therefore my hope for myself and those around me is a bit different. I stumbled across a quote a few years ago that I like to keep front and center in our lives by having it displayed where my family and I can see it easily:
“To speak gratitude is courteous and pleasant, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live gratitude is to touch Heaven.”
The idea has been for us to put a new frame around everything from minor inconveniences to major bumps in the road: instead of grumbling about household and garden chores, we reflect on our good fortune in having a home and garden that shelter and nurture our family; when a car needs unexpected repairs, we celebrate the fact that paying the bill is not a hardship, even though it is not the way we would choose to spend extra money. Fostering an ‘attitude of gratitude’ helps us to keep things in perspective, and opens up the possibility of ‘touching Heaven’ every day.
May you also find yourself able to live gratitude, in this season of Thanksgiving, and beyond.
On the Calendar
The First Congo Fall Book Fair will be held in the Social Hall on November 8th and 9th. The carefully selected titles that are being offered will be on display from 9:00 a.m. until noon on both of these mornings. You may browse through the collection, place an order (pay cash, check, or credit card), and the books will be delivered to you at school 2-3 weeks later. This is an easy way for you to get started with your holiday shopping — remember, a book is a gift that can be opened again and again — and a portion of the proceeds from the Book Fair will become book credits at Linden Tree Books for First Congo to use in filling out our classroom and Lending libraries.
A second book-related event will take place the evening of November 8th at 6:00 p.m. — Bedtime Stories for Beechwood. Put the children in their jammies and come join the staff in the Social Hall for cocoa and bedtime stories, all for a good cause. Donations of books and/or cash for Beechwood School will be gratefully accepted, but of course, are completely optional.
Monday, November 12th is a holiday for First Congo, as are Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, November 21st-23rd.
The annual Scholarship Bake Sale will take place on Nov. 18th, and we will begin collecting donations for the Holiday Layette Drive when we return to school after Thanksgiving, the week of Nov. 26th. Look for more information about these two important opportunities in your mail pouch at school soon.
We send out sincere thanks to the many families who have provided meals for the families in our community who have recently welcomed new babies into the fold. Thank you class reps (Amy Darling, Jen Glos, Adeline White; Emily Gottfurcht, Margaret Munzig; Robyn Miller, and Shea Singh) for organizing the ranks to fill the need!
Our CPK Fundraiser (October 16th) was loads of fun and we look forward to receiving the proceeds soon — thanks to all who participated!
And finally, the entire staff is grateful for everything that First Congo is: a wonderful community of thoughtful and dedicated families which brings us such joy every day. Thank you for sharing these wondrous years with us!