The gratitude way works!


Both of us were in the midst of a journey, transitioning flights from one state to another within the vast expanse of the United States. Initially separated on the first leg of our journey, fate or perhaps serendipity brought us together for the subsequent connection flight.


Despite the shortness of our travel time, we found ourselves engaged in a deep conversation. As our aircraft ascended into the sky, Derick delved into his work, immersing himself in a document with rows of numbers.


Meanwhile, I attempted to lose myself in a book that had accompanied me from the previous flight. At first, I hadn’t anticipated any interaction between us. However, approximately twenty minutes into our flight, Derick completed his task and, with a deep breath, initiated a dialogue: “Are you interested in numbers?” he inquired.


My response was noncommittal: “Not particularly, why do you ask?” Derick told me his profession as an accountant, expressing a fondness for numbers, particularly when they harmonise seamlessly.


Thus began our profound exchange. After acquainting me with his occupation and how long he has been working in his profession, Derick turned his attention to me, prompting inquiries about my own work, leading to a series of discussions surrounding my ministry. Our conversation meandered through topics such as the gospel, church dynamics, and the concept of gratitude. Eventually, a contemplative silence enveloped Derick before he embarked on a poignant narrative concerning gratitude, intertwined with reflections on his upbringing.


His narrative commenced with an ode to the transformative influence of teachers in the lives of their students. He recounted his humble beginnings, hailing from a modest family as the middle child among three boys. Born into a lineage of hardworking farmers, his father, captivated with a deep-seated affection for his vocation, harboured reservations about the pursuit of education for his children.


Education was not esteemed within their familial tradition, and thus, his father discouraged them from pursuing academic endeavours, preferring instead to regale them with tales of their agricultural heritage.


Despite his father’s aversion to formal education, governmental mandates compelled Derick to attend school until a prescribed grade level. Initially resistant, his defiance manifested in disruptive behaviour within the classroom, earning him a reputation as a troubled student.


His aspirations did not extend beyond joining his father in the family business, relishing the weekends spent working alongside him on the farm. The imposition of compulsory schooling seemed to prevent his desires for familial camaraderie.


Luckily, the trajectory of his life took an unforeseen turn in fifth grade upon encountering Mr. Solomon, a mathematics teacher whose approach differed markedly from his previous maths teacher as well as the other teachers he had. While other educators admonished him for his disruptions, Mr. Solomon displayed unwavering patience and genuine interest in Derick’s life outside the classroom.



Their interactions, characterised by empathy and personalised attention, fostered a sense of validation and worth within Derick. Despite his turbulent behaviour, Mr. Solomon saw beyond the facade of defiance, recognising latent potential waiting to be nurtured. Gradually, Derick’s manner underwent a transformation, fuelled by Mr. Solomon’s unwavering belief in his capabilities. Encouraged by his teacher’s affirmation, Derick began to apply himself diligently to his studies, achieving remarkable academic success.


Mr. Solomon’s consistent encouragement and recognition of his achievements served as a beacon of hope amidst the prevailing cynicism of his other instructors.


Today, as a successful chartered accountant, Derick attributes his accomplishments to the mentorship and guidance of Mr. Solomon, whose unwavering belief in his potential catalysed a profound metamorphosis in his life. He didn’t ignore the bad behaviours but decided to tackle it by giving priority to acknowledge and celebrating the good in him.


all this is to say is that I get it; the gratitude approach works.”



The approach of the other teachers was the reverse. Derick said, their approach reinforced his bad behaviour, it didn’t give him any hope for change or help him to recognise his potential. Reflecting on his journey, Derick expresses gratitude for Mr. Solomon for choosing the gratitude approach, which prioritised acknowledgment and celebration of his virtues over condemnation of his flaws, offering him a pathway to self-discovery and success. He turned to me and concluded “all this is to say that, I get it, the gratitude approach works.”

Revd Dr Girma Bishaw