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The Concept of "Enough"

Head of School Mary Halpin Carter kicked off the holiday season with a message about gratitude and the concept of "enough" at the Thanksgiving Assembly.

The Harvard Medical School’s Healthbeat newsletter speaks to the concept of gratitude: “The word gratitude is derived from the Latin word gratia, which means grace, graciousness, or gratefulness...”

Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. In the process, people usually recognize that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside themselves. As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals—whether to other people, nature, or a higher power.

In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.” (www.health.harvard.edu) I agree with the Harvard Medical School newsletter… and I invite you to think of a connected idea.

In order to be grateful for what one receives, one needs to feel it is enough. It’s hard to be giving to others if you don’t feel you have enough. The faculty, staff, alumni, and families who are most proportionally generous to Derryfield—who give to scholarships for financial aid, who give to enable us to build needed facilities that will serve thousands of children over the years—are all grateful and all feel they have enough. Enough is generosity.

By contrast, there are individuals around us who always want for more. No matter how much they have, they seek more clothes, a new boat, another home. When I was little, my dad used to tell me that some adults in our Massachusetts community who were living a rich material life were actually in huge amounts of debt. They couldn’t pay their doctor’s bills but drove expensive cars and took flashy vacations. Imagine their level of worry—that’s not freedom.

On Tuesday night, I was in Boston at a premier for a new documentary on the Boston Marathon bombings and the victims’ recovery. My dear friend Ricki Stern is the director. It was an amazing film… but there is another of Ricki’s films that is instructive today. The Trials of Darryl Hunt is a feature documentary about a brutal murder case and a wrongly convicted man, Darryl Hunt, who spent nearly twenty years in a North Carolina prison for a crime he did not commit. The film is about class and racial bias in the South and in the American criminal justice system. Darryl was twice falsely convicted, served 20 years in prison, and was exonerated by DNA evidence. My friend Ricki travelled to many cities with Darryl premiering the documentary. They did panel discussions, press interviews, and ate many meals together.

According to Ricki, the most amazing thing was Darryl’s perspective on the injustice done to him. He wasn’t bitter, though it would be understandable if he were. Rather, he had made the decision to be grateful for every day he was free, for each cup of coffee, for time with friends, for the opportunity to promote the documentary. Everything was enough. The days of freedom ahead were enough.Darryl was free of the weight of anger and bitterness. Enough is freedom.

Mr. Powell’s Environmental Studies classes have studied how the concept of enough is key to the survival of the planet. For the planet to thrive, we have to consume less. But that won’t happen unless we reframe our attitudes. Real conservation is only possible among people who feel that they have enough or need less to be happy. Enough is sustainability.

The happiest, most content, generous, and free people are those who feel they have enough and are thankful for it. Enough is the unsung hero of human happiness. Let’s take a moment to acknowledge, with gratitude, that we have enough.

Mary Halpin Carter, Ph. D.
Head of School
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