The chance your child will get into Harvard is 5.2 percent. The chance they will play for the NFL is 2 percent. The chances they will win the lottery are 1 in 175 million. The chance you sleep past 6 a.m. on Christmas morning? Well, you get the point — the odds are not in our favor.
While these odds are low, many parents will continue to spend an enormous amount of money on tutors, coaches and the Powerball hoping for the winning ticket. But when our children’s days are consumed with exams, homework and practices, what happens to the time spent for cultivating kindness and building character? Do more material demands lead to less moral dependency? Research says it does.
When our time becomes a limited commodity and opportunities favor friends that provide advancement, our culture quietly yet harshly shifts from collaboration to competition. As David Brooks says, “The meaning of the word ‘character’ changes. It is used less to describe traits like selflessness, generosity, self-sacrifice, and other qualities that sometimes make worldly success less likely. It is instead used to describe traits like self-control, grit, resilience, and tenacity, qualities that make worldly success more likely.”
My wish for you this holiday is to make this time less about a season of giving and receiving and more about a season of civility.
A season where we show gratitude by showing appreciation to the friends who actually still pick us up from the airport or the spouse who spent the time stuffing everyone’s stocking, including their own and, yet giving all credit to the man in the chimney.
A season where we are mindful. Mindful of the neighbors who are missing seeing their own loved ones open presents because they are working at the local fire stations, the hospitals or the convenience stores. Being mindful of the co-worker who might be experiencing their first holiday without a special loved one and the suffering that nullifies any chance of joy.
And a season where we take time to reflect on ways we can continue to practice gratitude and mindfulness throughout the upcoming year.
I have been given the incredible opportunity to share my new book, The Manners Contract, with over 50 classes since its launch last month. The last page of the book challenges my students to 30 different acts of kindness. These range from offering to rake a neighbor’s yard to making someone laugh to forgiving someone who has hurt you. So, future NFL athlete or not, my wish for you this season is to find new ways to cultivate kindness, make time for mindfulness and start next year with an attitude of gratitude.