Posts Tagged ‘Harlem Link Charter School’

Service of Gratitude II

Thursday, March 8th, 2018


I’m gratified when an article in a legitimate source such as The Wall Street Journal confirms one of my observations. In this case, it’s about gratitude and how it has been lost among a large swath of people, young and old alike.

For years I’ve been part of a committed group of association members who vet applications for college and grad school scholarships—as much as $10,000 plus generous fringe benefits. I’ve often written here about the scholarships or the winners. They pass three reviews: Every application is read by two members. Those recommended for the second level are interviewed on the phone and if that conversation goes well, the student meets a committee in person where final decisions are made. The competition is stiff. Some of the high school senior through grad school students are remarkable.


This year I interviewed college seniors attending grad school and only one sent me a thank you. Last year none of the students I spoke with thanked. “So what?” say you? “Nobody thanks these days. Where have you been?” you may think. So this: If two students receive equally high recommendations to move to the third and last review and one has written a thank you as short as “tx,” and the other has not, the grateful one gets the opportunity to be interviewed in person; the other loses her chance.

But the ramifications of not expressing gratitude are far greater than missing out on a scholarship.

In “An Attitude of Gratitude,” in the Journal Jennifer Breheny Wallace wrote: “As Dr. [Richard] Weissbourd sees it, parents were fed a myth that if children feel better about themselves—if parents praise them, cater to their every need and make them feel happy—it will help them to develop character. ‘But what we’re seeing in many cases is the opposite: When parents organize their lives around their kids, those kids expect everyone else to as well, and that leads to entitlement,’ he says. And when children are raised to feel entitled to everything, they are left feeling grateful for nothing.” Weissbourd, a psychologist, is faculty director of the Making Caring Common initiative at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education.


“Researchers find that people with a grateful disposition are more thankful for a wider variety of things in their lives, such as their friends, their health, nature, their jobs or a higher power—and that they experience feelings of gratitude more intensely. For them, gratitude isn’t a one-off ‘thank you.’ It’s a mind-set, a way of seeing the world.”

John Wyeth

This approach reminds me of the award for niceness instituted at the Harlem Link Charter School named to honor the memory of John Wyeth who had worked there for a decade and who was the epitome of the award. I wrote about it a year ago.

Wallace also included observations of David Rosmarin, director of the Spirituality and Mental Health Program at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass., and an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. He mentioned how gratitude takes a place in most world religions.

I attended a memorable Bar Mitzvah service many years ago in which our friend’s son Julian told the congregation about his good deed that was part of his Bar Mitzvah preparation. He described making sandwiches to offer homeless men and women in Newark, N.J. and how hard it was to get out of his father’s car when they arrived in the city and what it was like to approach and speak with the destitute people he met.

Helping less fortunate people became a turning point for one family in the article. The floors in a house that one of the children helped to restore as a volunteer were in such bad shape you could stand in the home and see through to the ground. When this child returned home “she got down and hugged the floor and said, ‘I’ve never been grateful for a floor, but now I am.’”

Wrote Wallace: “The researchers found, in keeping with past studies, that general gratitude was associated with less anxiety, less depression and greater well-being. They also found that religious gratitude—toward God—was associated with additional reductions in anxiety and depression and increases in well-being.”


It’s never too late to teach gratitude to a child and Wallace noted the obvious: The most effective way is for parents to practice what they want a child to do such as thanking when junior takes out the garbage or holds open a door.

Wallace wrote that parents can “spur their children to appreciate and reflect on the time and thought behind the gifts and kindness they receive, as in: ‘Jack really knows how much you love football. How thoughtful that he gave you a jersey of your favorite team’ or ‘Wow, Grandma just took a five-hour train ride to come and see you perform in that play.’”

Do you think expressing gratitude eventually leads to feeling it and that it really has positive effects? Does a person—parent, boss or client–appear to be weak if they thank which is why they don’t do it? Do you know anyone who never thanked and then suddenly began to? Do you have examples of someone who expressed gratitude to you that bowled you over?


Service of Nice

Thursday, April 13th, 2017


John Wyeth at Harlem Link School

John Wyeth at Harlem Link School


Telling someone that their blind date is “nice” was, in the day, code for the man/woman is either ugly, dumb, addicted to some substance or a combination. That was in my salad days.

Over the years, as the literal “nice” applies to increasingly fewer people, the word has come to mean what it should and is positive and precious to me.

Given my appreciation of all things nice, you’ll soon see why I jumped when I read a good friend Deirdre Wyeth’s Facebook post about the school at which her dear husband John had worked and the reason I asked if I might post what they did to remember him. John died last fall, far too soon.

Deirdre wrote on Facebook: “The wonderful people at Harlem Link Charter School, where John worked for almost 10 years, held a celebration this evening in memory of him. There were in-person and video tributes, a song by one of the students, and a buffet based on what he brought for lunch every day: pb&j, wheat thins and grapes in a brown bag.

“They also created a plaque for him [photo below]. And especially wonderful, they announced they will name an award for a graduating student in his honor – and the award is for niceness. How perfect is that? Such a moving and emotional evening. Thanks to all!”

On its website Harlem Link describes itself as a “Pre-K to 5 public charter school that has offered a high quality educational choice to families in Harlem since 2005. Our school attains high levels of academic achievement in a safe, nurturing environment through a well-rounded curriculum.” In another section I read: “We also pay attention to details that too many public schools ignore, such as the consistency with which teachers use language from grade to grade to build a common culture and the quiet tone of our hallways.”

Quiet hallways. Wow. What’s quiet in NYC and with children around?

Photo: Pinterest

Photo: Pinterest

Being nice was just one of the wonderful and particular things about John. In addition to writing plays and being a topnotch school administrator, he loved ragtime and being a dad. Of the many children in his life his brilliant, lovely daughter May benefited most from his creativity, composure and his pride in her accomplishments.

The Nice Award caught my attention for another reason. I’ve mentioned before that I was designated “Best Camper” at my overnight camp at aged 8, a concept considered so yesterday in today’s competitive world. The tangible reward was a magnificent, special lollipop—I’d not tasted a more delicious one before nor have I since. I think the recognition was for similar reasons as the John Wyeth Nice Award. I relate and am pleased to see appreciation for such characteristics returning.

We mostly reward celebrity, financial success, physical beauty, the four star restaurant and the people who get all A’s. How many institutions recognize–and honor–the nicest person in the group?

John Wyeth Plaque

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