On Grace and Gratitude

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download.jpg memoryThis blog is a letter to my colleagues at West Wind Education Policy, written as I end my tenure at West Wind and as I phase into retirement from the education profession.

Dear West Wind Friends and Colleagues,

This month marks both the anniversary of four years of employment at West Wind and my retirement.  These years of service with each of you has been a wonderful capstone to my life’s work as a teacher and in support of teachers.  I hope that in my time at West Wind, I have cultivated relationships and a way of working together that brought dignity and grace to our shared workplace.  I have been thinking a lot about grace.  The word “grace” comes from the Latin root word “grat” which has many meanings — pleasing, agreeable; giving something not asked for, out of kindness; and to be thankful, appreciative.[1] It is my ongoing aspiration to give something not asked for, to demonstrate kindness, to act with grace – not just at work, but all the time. Of course, this goal demands constant reflection, self-discipline, and relentless effort. Colleagues, I ask you to forgive those occasions when I didn’t quite meet this challenge and accept my thanks for the countless times your grace-filled actions and gestures contributed to our collective work, cemented friendships, and made working at West Wind such a pleasure.

The word “gratitude” also stems from the root word “grat”.  This letter is sent with gratitude for many wonderful experiences at West Wind. I am grateful for West Wind’s culture that encourages individuals to bring their best selves to the workplace and has established norms where each of us is able to grow in many ways. I am grateful for the opportunities to work on important projects, to learn new skills, to meet countless interesting and talented professionals, and to be creative. It has been great learning to struggle on hard problems and to use each other’s strengths to find solutions. I am grateful for the fun moments, the laughter we have shared, and the chance to get to know each of you.

Now that I am looking ahead to the next stage in my life, reflecting on grace seems even more important. These words about retirement offered by syndicated columnist, Ellen Goodman in her final column, hold great meaning for me at this moment.

“There’s a trick to the Graceful Exit. It begins with the vision to recognize when a job, a life stage, a relationship is over — and to let go. It means leaving what’s over without denying its validity or its past importance in our lives. The trick of retiring well may be the trick of living well,” I wrote back then. “It’s hard to recognize that life isn’t a holding action, but a process. It’s hard to learn that we don’t leave the best parts of ourselves behind, back in the dugout or the office. We own what we learned back there. The experiences and the growth are grafted onto our lives. And when we exit, we can take ourselves along — quite gracefully.”[2]

With gratitude to you all and hopefully a bit of grace,


[1] Definitions from http://www.english-for-students.com/grat.html  and http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/gratis

[2] Goodman, Ellen. (January 1, 2010). Ellen Goodman’s last column: looking backward, looking forward. Editorials/Opinions Seattle Times. Retrieved from https://www.seattletimes.com/opinion/ellen-goodmans-last-column-looking-backward-looking-forward/

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