Sunday, November 8, 2015

The Sound of Gratitude: Songs for Reflection and Discussion

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Here are more than a dozen songs that help us reflect on the people and circumstances we feel grateful for.

The songs are divided into two categories:  Thanks to Specific People, and Appreciation for Life Itself.  Each group of songs is followed by several questions for reflection and discussion; they're designed for either personal use or for teaching others.  

[Update: I've added a snippet of lyrics from each song to help you decide what might be most appropriate for your context.]

Category 1: Thanks to Specific People

Kind and Generous, Nathalie Merchant
 audio & lyrics from
"You've been so kind and generous.  I don't know how you keep on giving.  For your kindness I'm in debt to you, and I never could have come this far without you."

Thank You, Boyz II Men  
lyrics; video of live performance
"So many times and changes you've seen me through. I sure enough couldn't have survived without you. And so I thought up this song to show my appreciation for lovin' me so long.  You don't know how much you mean to me."

Thank You for Being a Friend, Andrew Gray 
lyricsyoutube video of audio and lyrics 
"And if you threw a party, invited everyone you knew, you would see, the biggest gift would be from me, and the card attached would say, Thank you for being a friend." 

Thank You Song in 45 Languages 
youtube video (Be sure to preview before using in your class.  There's nothing offensive in the words but some of the images are an odd choice for such a family-friendly song.)
"Thank you.  Arigato.  Gracias.  Obrigado.  Merci..."   

They Can't Take That Away from Me, Ira Gershwin
lyricsyoutube video of Diana Krall (audio only, with photo of album cover)
"The way your smile just beams.  The way you sing off key.  The way you haunt my dreams.  No no they can't take that away from me." 

True Friend, Hannah Montana (Miley Cyrus)
lyrics; youtube video of audio and lyrics
"You're a true friend.  You're here till the end.  You pull me aside when something ain't right.  Talk with me now and into the night.  'Til it's alright again.  You're a true friend."

Your Song, Elton John
lyricsyoutube video of audio and lyrics
"You can tell everybody this is your song.  It may be quite simple but now that it's done, I hope you don't mind that I put down in words how wonderful life is while you're in the world."

Questions for Reflection and Discussion:

  • Which of these songs makes me feel most grateful to an important person in my life (0r makes me wish I had someone like that in my life)? Why?
  • If I had a chance to perform the song, how would I change the words to express my appreciation for someone who's helped me (or the sort of person I wish would help me)?
  • What are some other ways I could express my appreciation for this person?
  • If someone wrote a song about me, what would I want it to say?  

Category 2: Appreciating Life

I Hope You Dance, Lee Ann Womack  
lyricsyoutube video of audio and lyrics
"I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean.  Whenever one door closes, I hope one more opens.  Promise me that you'll give faith a fighting chance.  And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance."

Live Like You Were Dying, Tim McGraw 
youtube video with audio and lyrics
"I loved deeper, and I spoke sweeter,  And I watched an eagle as it was flyin'... someday I hope you get the chance to live like you were dyin'."

My List, Toby Keith 
youtube video of audio and lyrics 
"Under an old brass paperweight is my list of things to do today... Go for a walk, say a little prayer.  Take a deep breath of mountain air... Look up a long lost friend of mine... Start livin', that's the next thing on my list." 

Thank U, Alanis Morissette  
lyrics and audio from 
"How 'bout me not blaming you for everything.  How 'bout me enjoying the moment for once...   Thank you terror.  Thank you disillusionment.  Thank you frailty. Thank you consequence.  Thank you silence."

Thankful, Jonny Lang & Michael McDonald 
lyricsyoutube video (audio only, with photo of album cover)
"Someone just became a single mother.  Someone just lost a sister or brother.  It's so important that we love each other and be thankful...  Someone's sitting in a prison cell... Everybody's got their own story to tell. I used to think I didn't have a lot.  Now I realize just how much I've got."

What a Wonderful World Bob Thiele and George David Weiss
lyrics;  Playing for Change video of children's choirs and young musicians from around the world 
"I see skies of blue and clouds of white.  The bright blessed day and the dark sacred night.  And I think to myself what a wonderful world."

Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee,  Henry van Dyke
Ode to Joy/Symphony No. 9, Ludwig van Beethoven 
"Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee" hymn lyrics 
video clip of Joyful, Joyful from Sister Act 2, with subtitles 
Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” lyrics based on a poem by Friedrich Schiller
video of a flash mob performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, with a delighted multi-generational audience

Questions for Reflection and Discussion:
  • Which of these songs makes me feel most appreciative of my life?
  • Is there anything I take for granted that I should appreciate more?
  • Do I have material possessions and comfortable surroundings that I feel grateful for?
  • Do I have any other types of advantages that many other people don't have?  
  • Is there a way I could use my advantages to help others, and/or is there a way I could help people who don't have my advantages?
  • Have I faced any challenges that were difficult at the time but that I now appreciate?  What did these situations teach me?  Is there a way I could use what I learned to help other people?
  • If I wrote a song about appreciation for my life, what would I say?

Note to teachers:  I'd recommend choosing two or three songs from category 1 for one lesson, then choosing two or three songs from category 2 as another day's lesson.  

If you have a favorite song about gratitude or a favorite way to practice or teach gratitude, please post a comment letting us know about it.


related posts:

How Mindful Am I? (quiz)

Noticing the Five Senses: A Daily Mindfulness Log

The Sound of Compassion: Songs for Reflection and Discussion

The Sound of Gratitude 2

What's the Best Mindfulness Practice for Me? (quiz)

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