Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Virtue Ethics: An Ethical Development Program for High School Youth

Alternate Activity 2: Gratitude as a Spiritual Practice

Part of Virtue Ethics

Activity time: 20 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • Newsprint, markers, and tape
  • Handout 1, Gratitude for What We May Take for Granted
  • Optional: A computer with Internet access and a digital projector or a large monitor
  • Optional: Participants' journals, or writing paper; pens/pencils
  • Optional: Soothing music, and a music player

Preparation for Activity

  • Post blank newsprint.
  • Optional: Obtain participants' journals, if they are stored on-site.
  • Optional: Choose some soothing music. Test your music player and queue the music.
  • Optional: Preview the Gratefulness website. Test equipment and Internet access in the meeting space.

Description of Activity

Participants focus on gratefulness as a by-product of humility and practice being intentionally grateful.

Ask the group what is the relationship between humility and gratefulness. If no one offers, suggest that humility helps us see we have many undeserved gifts for which we should be grateful.

Brainstorm ways people express that they are grateful. Note contributions briefly on newsprint. Use these prompts, if needed:

  • Saying "thank you"
  • Offering a prayer of gratitude
  • Sending thank-you cards
  • Donating money to organizations that help people in need
  • Directly helping others who are in need
  • Lighting candles during a worship service (Joys and Concerns)

Tell participants that some people practice gratefulness as a spiritual practice. A spiritual practice is an activity you do regularly that helps you feel spiritually connected or fulfilled. A spiritual practice is a time to focus on being the kind of person you wish to be. Some spiritual practices offer a "time-out" from the regular hustle and bustle of our days. Others may be an activity you do, perhaps with others, as an expression of your spiritual self.

Gather ideas for how you could practice gratefulness regularly. You may find ideas on the newsprint list.

Suggest the group try one or more practices now. Play soothing music if you have brought some. If you have journals or writing paper, distribute to the youth and invite them to quietly write or draw. Or, youth can pray or meditate.

Distribute Handout 1, Gratitude for What We May Take for Granted, by Unitarian Universalist minister L. Annie Foerster. Have volunteers take turns reading sections of the prayer aloud. Ask, "What do you think about the way the prayer poses difficult situations, like oppression, illness, and death, as experiences to be grateful for?" The author seems to say we should be grateful for everything that makes us human. Acknowledge that this is challenging, and requires intention. Is this prayer one participants feel is valuable?

Point out that this prayer speaks to one of the messages of this program: We are all imperfect beings, practicing being virtuous people... ailing... and practicing again.


If you have Internet access, visit the Gratefulness website and lead the group to light a virtual candle in appreciation of something for which they are grateful. Encourage youth to consider making a spiritual practice of gratefulness.