With Gratitude

Dear Hill-Murray Community,

Most weeks, I receive an all-staff email from a Hill-Murray staff member with the subject line “Thankful Thursday.” It is a tradition that started at Hill-Murray long before my time, championed by one of our school counselors, Lisa Valentine, and one that gives staff members the opportunity to share their reflections on gratitude. The depth of sharing often humbles me, and I appreciate the commitment of my colleagues for taking the time to give thanks throughout the year.

Thanksgiving marks the 27th year I have worked in schools, and I would like to address my “Thankful Tuesday” to all of you in the Hill-Murray community – students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents, and supporters throughout the generations of Hill-Murray, Archbishop Murray Memorial, and Hill High School.

As I start to enter what some call “the second half of life,” I find myself becoming more aware of what is good and beautiful in the world – and less concerned about small ego-driven things that used to derail me. I see God everywhere. When I am grounded in gratitude, I take less for granted and have a stronger awareness of God’s presence.

I am grateful for life each day. I am grateful to each of you for reading this letter. If you are reading it, you have eyes that can see and a mind that can read and comprehend. I appreciate you and give thanks that you are part of the HM community. Because of you, we are better.

I am grateful to be a leader in a school surrounded by over 1,000 students’ energy, passion, growth and daily struggles. By no means is accompanying middle and high school students easy work, but I stand by the fact that it is some of the most meaningful, important work to be done in our world today. I am grateful for the committed faculty and staff with huge hearts and a passion for educating young people. I am energized and inspired by watching them work and supporting our students.

I am grateful to be immersed in a school community that values the faith-based education of young people and the vocation of their teachers. Excellence in education is a hallmark of our Lasallian heritage – an education that is proudly Catholic and, in our Benedictine tradition, always welcoming. I am grateful that each morning during our all-school prayer, we call upon the intercession of Saint Benedict, Saint Scholastica, and Saint John Baptist de LaSalle as a way of connecting us to the spiritual gifts and traditions of our faith. I am grateful to God, the source of all of our blessings.

Gratitude takes hold in sometimes the most unexpected ways. My mom is struggling with early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease. I am grateful for how and what this struggle is teaching me. It teaches me to savor every moment – to be with her in the moment. This lesson goes far beyond my relationship with my mom; it matters in many ways. It is magical when I can be present in the moment with a student, a colleague, a friend, or a family member. I am in the right mindset. I notice the little things. I see the world in full color.

So, as you celebrate Thanksgiving with your families, I invite you to join me in gratitude. Let us always be aware of the countless blessings that surround us, which we often take for granted. Join me in giving thanks for the many gifts we have received and being ever grateful for the Hill-Murray community that binds us together in faith.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Melissa Dan
Hill-Murray School President