The Power of Giving Thanks

4/29/15 by Xe Chang

​Wilder's Youth Leadership Initiative (YLI) hosts an annual event to recognize adults who inspire and make an impact on young people. YLI participants learn to understand the importance of showing gratitude to people who make a difference in their lives. At the Inspiration Dinner — scheduled for April 30 this year — YLI participants can recognize an adult who has inspired them.

At the 2014 Inspiration Dinner, YLI participant Xe Chang nominated her English teacher, Erik Peterson. Xe recently answered questions about the Inspiration Dinner and what she learned from the experience. Her answers show how powerful it can be to thank and recognize people for the influence they have on other people.

What is the Inspiration Dinner?

Inspiration Dinner is an intentionally created space for young people to appreciate the adults in their life; whether it be a parent, teacher, mentor or friend. I think it is super powerful that Inspiration Dinner came from a group of young people who believed in the power of giving thanks. 

I admired the way he was able to be positive despite having to deal with students who constantly did not do their work or bothered him with their taunts. Instead of sending these students out, he would remind them the bigger goal of life. I saw in him qualities that I saw in YLI; passion and a high level of energy. Sitting in the corner of Mr. Peterson's English class, I thought, "Wow, this person is pretty cool." I guess I aspired to have that patience and the ability to turn something negative to positive.  Why did you decide to nominate Mr. Peterson?

What was his reaction when you nominated him? Were you surprised by it?

I think initially, he was definitely surprised that a student like myself, someone who is often quiet and rarely spoke in class, would be inspired by him but also delighted. I remembered he was smiling the whole time while I was talking to him about it. I was surprised and felt like a heavy burden was lifted off because I was able to express what I always wanted to say. I liked that feeling very much. 

What did you learn from this experience? Were you surprised by it?

People don't realize the power and influences they have on you until you speak it out and that is powerful. I am reminded again by this experience how often we do not stop and thank others and how deeply interconnected we are with those around us.

The Youth Leadership Initiative is a multicultural program at Wilder that helps youth learn skills, engage in community action and develop as leaders. Approximately sixty students participate in the program.