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Outlier’s Path

Grit, Grace, and Gratitude

This past weekend, Atticus “graduated” from a middle school math camp. Graduation is only complete with a closing ceremony. Before attending, I dreaded the pomp and circumstance, but of course, there was none because we wouldn’t find that with disheveled and disorganized mathematicians. What they lacked in organization skills, the camp counselors did not lack in content. The closing addresses by Professors Matt DeLong and April Verser reminisced about how the students persevered through their first time away from home for four weeks, the esoteric math and games they learned and played, and tied it up in a bow with the values of grit, grace, and gratitude, which showed up throughout various points of their camp experience.

Life is a journey with many ups and downs, but grit, grace, and gratitude are the interwoven strengthening values that serve as the bedrock and as pillars of resilience. Grit fuels our pursuits with the fire of determination. Grace embraces living through empathy and compassion for others. Gratitude brings joy and reminds us of the abundance around us.

While listening to the closing address, my first thought was that the importance of these values is evident to adults, but my second thought was that we still need reminding that these virtues are most important when we least want to apply them. Is it grit when we run the extra mile on a nice sunny day, or when we run the extra mile on a cold rainy day, or should the weather even be a factor whether we run that extra mile? Are composure and elegance considered grace on an easy day, or is grace when we show up with care and understanding under fire? Is it gratitude when it is easy to say thank you, or does gratitude come from a genuine and more profound appreciation for all the abundance around us and the joy it brings us and others?

In psychology, stimulus-response theory is the belief that behavior manifests as an interplay between stimulus and response. Through classical conditioning, Pavlov trained dogs to behave a certain way and demonstrated the concept of stimulus and response with minimal effort. However, we are humans, not dogs, and there is always a moment between stimulus and our response. At that moment, we can choose our response.

When we find that next moment where our instinctual behavior is to growl with “gr…” we can consciously choose our response and replace our growl with grit, grace, and gratitude.