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A Thanksgiving Message

The following message was sent to Regis families and alumni families on November 22, but we wanted to share it with our larger Regis community too.

Head of School, Dennis Phillips, working with a 5th grade student to unpack canned food at the East Spring Branch Food Pantry

Head of School, Dennis Phillips, working with a 5th grade student
to unpack canned food at the East Spring Branch Food Pantry.

Back in 1986 the American poet, Edward Hirsh, who coincidentally is a native Chicagoan, and spent 17 years at the University of Houston as a professor in the Creative Writing program, wrote a beautiful collection of poems titled, Wild Gratitude. The book earned him the National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry. The collection of poems was praised by critics for its "tenderness without being sentimental."
On the edge of celebrating Thanksgiving, I paused for a moment when I read the phrase, "Wild Gratitude." Why did Hirsh choose this title for his book of poems? I suppose he considered "refined gratitude" or simply just the word, "gratitude" on its own as insufficient for his purposes. Wild gratitude has the ring of carelessness or senselessness attached to it. Similar to when we hear the phrase, "sent on a wild goose chase." I'm guessing he chose "Wild Gratitude" because he wanted to stop the reader in their tracks. I have to admit that's what it did for me.  Standing here in late November I wonder, what does wild gratitude really feel like?
I sometimes look for wild gratitude on the faces of Regis boys. It's an elusive look and often unpredictable because it's never found at a certain time of the day, or day of the week, or even at a certain grade level. It's never isolated to first thing in the morning at drop-off, or just before break time, or in the middle of math class. I'm convinced it's random like the traffic patterns on Westview Drive out my office window. Just like the emotion of empathy, gratitude gushes out of the faces of boys when they feel happy about who they are, and what playground they are running on. The subtle feel of a warm breeze on your face as you ride down the slide at full speed is gratitude, appreciation, and happiness all wrapped up together into a three second moment. I remember those feelings as a boy running after friends during a game of catch one catch all. It's every parent's wish that their son will feel these emotions of wild gratitude. We really don't need a holiday to remind us of these feelings of appreciation, but I'm still grateful to celebrate it.
Returning back to Edward Hirsh, he's been characterized as a poet who's been able "to isolate and preserve those details of our existence so often overlooked, so easily forgotten, so essential to our souls." In 2019 it's too easy to overlook the details when our phones are in our hands and our laptops are on our desks. We're often not necessarily to blame for missing the finer details when it's more convenient to order a carry-out dinner, or have our groceries ordered and delivered based upon our previous ordering history. It's difficult to preserve the details of living when all of our needs and hopes can be anticipated based on our previous preferences and online purchases.
This Thanksgiving I'd propose a little "wild gratitude" mixed in with your stuffing and turkey. First start out with a blank stare out your back window at the branches on your favorite tree. See the lines that form the leaves and wonder how that happened. Next watch your son just before bed time, or right after he has gotten out of bed in the morning. Sleep still evidenced in his eyes, a slight curve to his hair to create a perfect bedhead. Then isolate a moment in time as members of your family all belly laugh to a funny joke or a tender memory. This is gratitude "out of control" without boundaries and unruly like a pack of middle schoolers on Thanksgiving break.
There is a "wild gratitude" here too at The Regis School of the Sacred Heart. It's in the finer details of a boy's developing faith and spirituality as he conceives of a God who loves him so much that he gifts him with the ability to dream and wonder. It's also in the overlooked abilities boys have to devour books and write silly stories. Then just when you thought you could describe your son, he goes and hands over his friendship to another boy you never thought he cared about. It's surprising to see what is essential for boys because sometimes they surprise themselves and feel good inside when they help someone in need. Sure they might consider themselves pathetic at math, or baseball, or spelling, but they know giving up is the last choice they want to make. The Sacred Heart Goals are about "wild gratitude" we just don't see it if we forget to isolate the finer details.
Stepping into this week of Thanksgiving I pray each of you will isolate and preserve those details so often overlooked. They are all right in front of our eyes longing to be felt and seen!

On behalf of the Regis Faculty and Staff I wish you and your family a healthy dose of wild gratitude to go with your Thanksgiving holiday.

Dennis P. Phillips
Head of School