Many of my personal heroes and mentors practice gratitude. Attitude is everything, my parents often remind me. An app on my phone even notifies me daily that it is time to pause for gratitude. But I will be honest: 2020 has not been a year that has elicited many feelings of gratitude from my soul. This year has done a number on my ability to find things to celebrate and reasons to be grateful.

Or so I thought. Upon accepting a challenge from our wonderful Exchange production editor Chelsea, I decided to use this column to share some professional gratitude. And as it turns out, I have a lot to say!

First and foremost, I am grateful for my team. The people who collaborate to bring you Exchange are some of the most dedicated, hard-working, creative individuals I know. They pour their hearts into this work every single day. One our best days, we delight in brainstorming sessions about design and content. During tougher times, we have supported each other through the “joys” of supervising our children’s remote schooling, family emergencies and, just plain grouchy days. These colleagues push me to be a better friend and editor and I am grateful for them.

I am grateful for our Exchange publisher and CEO, Nancy Rosenow, who has written a personal email (“Together Apart”) to our entire staff every day since mid-March. Sometimes she shares inspirational quotes, sometimes recipes, and—whenever possible—staff celebrations. Perhaps most importantly, she offers genuine emotional support to all of use living through this new normal. These messages have made a world of difference for our little professional community; I know from our readers that many of you have undertaken similar communications within your programs—brava!

One center director/Exchange author periodically sends me personal essays or poems that she and/or her staff have written. They are witty and heartfelt, and have given me an ongoing glimpse into one program’s journey through 2020. I am grateful for the opportunities I have had this year to speak with YOU, Exchange readers, who are, as ever, the heartbeat of our work. You have honored me with your trust and openness.

Spider on some rocksFinally, I am grateful for tiny, unexpected moments of happiness. One afternoon in October, as I scrambled to balance parenting and work, my neighbor—a kindergarten teacher—offered to take my son on a walk. For two hours, they explored a nearby creek bed, searching for slugs and evidence of beaver engineering. Under a pile of leaves, they came upon a gigantic dock spider and documented their discovery with photos. Upon their return, my son was overjoyed, rejuvenated by the fresh air and attentive, loving care he had experienced. I was reminded anew that acts of kindness are everywhere and that attitude and gratitude are, indeed, everything.

As we prepare to send 2020 into the history books, I invite you to explore your own feelings of gratitude. Grab a journal, an old notebook, or just the back of the grocery list or phone bill. Consider the people and events that inspire you or make you feel loved and appreciated. Who has showed up for you this year? Who have you showed up for? It might feel daunting—or even impossible—but I predict that you’ll surprise yourself. Let me know!

Happy new year,

Sara Gilliam

Sara Gilliam author and former editor of Exchange magazine.

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