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A Little Happier: My America Feeling: I’m Grateful for the Sound of Many Languages.


Ancient philosophers and contemporary scientists agree: gratitude is a critical element to a happy life.

Research shows that people who cultivate gratitude get a boost in happiness and optimism, feel more connected to other people, are better-liked and have more friends, are more likely to help others—they even sleep better and have fewer headaches.

Nevertheless, I find it…challenging to cultivate a grateful frame of mind.

I find that it’s hard to stay grateful. It’s all too easy to begin to take aspects of my life for granted, and not realize how happy they make me, or how lucky I am. So I really make an effort to remind myself of all the things I have to be grateful for.

Here’s an example.

I grew up in Kansas City, Missouri, and when I was a child, I rarely heard anyone speak a language other than English. I was absolutely transfixed by hearing other languages, I was always hoping to hear them, and when I overheard people saying a few words I couldn’t understand, I’d try surreptitiously to follow those people around so I could listen. I just loved the sounds of those words.

Well, flash-forward. Now I live in New York City. Every single day, I hear many, many languages spoken. According to a Business Insider article, the top languages include English, Spanish, Russian, Haitian, French, Bangali, Korean, languages in the African Kru family, Punjabi, Korean, Polish, Albanian. Those are just the top languages!

To give you a flavor, here’s a clip of people saying “Hello” in many languages:

I’ve become so accustomed to hearing to all these languages that I don’t even notice it.

But lately I’ve been trying to be more aware of it, to feel grateful, to think back to young Gretchen and how thrilled she would’ve been to have the chance to hear all these different languages.

Hearing all those languages, every time I step outside my apartment, gives me my America feeling. It makes me grateful that people from all over the world choose to come here to New York City, and to the United States. It is our glory, and our strength, and I love to hear it.

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