Gratitude Minute

Posted on June 29th, 2018 by

People are strewn all over the courts, lying face up, or standing stock still.  It is as quiet as a graveyard.  But it might be the most alive minute of the day at TLC.

It is a minute of being completely present.  Of leaving every care behind.  Of remembering who or what we are grateful for.

It is TLC’s Gratitude Minute.

Twice a day, the bull horn sounds from the tower, the speaker calls out “Gratitude Minute!  Gratitude Minute!”, and everyone stops mid-point/mid drill/mid-sentence and drops to the ground or stands still.  The silence is deafening.  One moment, happy shouts, balls striking, tennis shoes squeaking, instructors shouting encouragement and campers laughing and diving for balls.  The next, stillness.

We ask the campers and ourselves to think about what they are grateful for during this time.

And usually it is full of surprises.

What I start out being grateful for is not what I usually end up being grateful for.

I often start my minute on my back, on the court, by being grateful for the usual: my family, our staff, my job that allows me to lie down in the middle of the day for a minute and look up at the sky.

Then, as only silence can do, near the end of the minute – every, single, time so far – something unexpected emerges.  One day it was being grateful for the camper who had not smiled in two days and now was so happy to be here.  One day it was a bird call I had never heard before.  One day it was my irritation towards a camper who during the minute continued to talk loudly, asking her instructor question after question, unaware of the people lying down all around them.  My budding anger, as I lay in disturbed silence, transformed into thankfulness that she was at camp, as she had undergone some recent life challenges and was back enjoying the world for the first time in years, alive and well.  By the end of the minute, all I could feel was glad that she was here with us.

Silence has a way of speaking to us unlike anything else.  It exposes our fears and then helps us see that they needn’t overpower us.  Because in this moment, everything that is important becomes accentuated:  our relationships, our ability to give thanks, and our doing something powerful as a community/camp that we are all equal partners in.

When we carve time for it – even one minute a couple times a day – somehow my worries seem reduced, rather than multiplied.  Silence allows me to be aware of the troubles I have, and simultaneously realize I don’t have to run from them, they are not as overpowering as I thought.  Or, if they are, it allows me to feel them, invite them to rest beside me as we all rest, and know that, for a moment, I can set them aside for what I am grateful for.

Then, when the minute is up and the bull horn sounds again, I can either pick them up and carry them around with me again, or realize I can sometimes leave them lying there on the court.  I have been powerfully aware how this minute, collectively as a camp, has allowed me to put everything in perspective, and stand back up refreshed and engaged and strengthened.

To watch a hundred people come to a complete standstill (or usually lie-still) all at once is a mind changing experience for me.  To “hear” quiet descend on camp as powerfully as any shout of happiness or exclamation of “Hole in one on court three!”  To gradually become aware of what is out there beyond my internal and external chaos and have that bird call emerge from the silence, or a dog in the distance, or a mosquito (I didn’t say it was perfect).  This happens twice a day at TLC.

For that, I am grateful.

And I’m grateful for the comment I get over and over and over and over from both adult and junior campers, “That wasn’t long enough!”  (We will next, apparently, be instituting TLC Naptime).

Try it.  You might be surprised at how one minute can change your perspective on things that only a minute ago consumed you.  Or at the very least you might hear that mosquito better and be able to zero in and swat it.

Click here to see it, and take a minute for yourself to express gratitude.

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  1. Scott Link says:

    Great idea! They say the most important way to bring and keep joy in your life is to practice gratitude. Awesome.

  2. Steve and Beth Fridinger says:

    How wonderful, simple and profound. Our family so appreciates you, Neal, David, Tommy, JC and the rest of the TLC staffers AND also the TLC community for making this world a little bit better everyday. Our family is looking forward to our gratitude nap in a few weeks!

  3. Cliff Janney says:

    Neal, great idea and one we all can use in our lives. It has been several years but still benefiting from TLC!

    (So grateful for what tennis brought to my life.)

  4. Jim Hearn says:

    Hi Neal, glad the camps continue with new and innovative ways to help people connect with others and themselves. Hope you are well, been a very long time since my last visit.


    Jim Hearn ‘82

    • Neal Hagberg says:

      Great to hear from you, Jim. Thank you keeping up with TLC. I hope I see you down the road!

  5. Penny Greer says:

    Great practice, Neal, I commend you for initiating it!! I’ll try it here on my bed with my elevated and iced knee!!


    Penny Greer

  6. Amy Steinhauser says:

    This is wonderful! In hindsight it seems so obvious, but as a kid I heard a Thanksgiving sermon about changing “grrrr-attitudes” into “gratitude,” and it was transformational. You are transforming these campers every day!

  7. Laura Riness says:

    Bravo! TLC is, once again, offering cutting-edge principles that shape lives both on and off the court. This aligns with the three crowns philosophy that also shapes lives. Long story short, TLC has been such a blessing in our lives. Thank you, and best wishes for continued growth and opportunities.

    Laura Riness

    • Neal Hagberg says:

      Thank you, Laura, we are committed to always growing and learning. As Michelangelo said at age 86: “I am still learning”.

  8. Beckie Cantwell says:

    just reason #539 on why we keep on coming back! You guys do amazing things and for that, we are grateful. It takes just one moment like this to keep the love of sports in our kids! Keep being awesome! See you in August!

  9. Rene Moriarty says:

    Love it. Living in the moment and recognizing gratitude takes practice! Especially on a hot tennis court. Keep making a difference.

  10. Jennifer Kirby says:

    What a super idea! I can’t make it to TLC this year, but I’m going to incorporate this into my life nevertheless. Thanks for keeping us in the loop with all of the amazing things happening this year at camp!

    • Neal says:

      We’ll miss you! Thanks for your comment, though, Jennifer. Let us know how it goes…

  11. Wally Schaeffer says:

    As I said to Steve sooo many years ago after my first of many camps…it’s not just about the tennis, is it? it’s about how to live life! And he just smiled.

  12. Bao says:

    Neal. TLC is just so amazing! This is AMAZING!! Oncgrsts to your leadership and the coaches for your dedication the help change kids lives through tennis.

    Job well done!

    • Neal Hagberg says:

      Thank you, Bao. It’s been something I have been thinking about for years and finally found the format to pull the trigger on. It’s my favorite moment of the day.

  13. Paul Lubinski says:

    Hello Neal,
    You have found in this gratitude minute a powerful practice. I am deeply grateful for you to sharing it with us. I observed a shift in my thoughts and attitude just while reading about this.
    Best wishes, kind regards,

    • Neal Hagberg says:

      Hi Paul, As a person with a short attention span, lol, I am amazed at the difference one minute makes. Even I can be still for that long! Thanks for your feedback.

  14. Mark Rekow says:

    Thank you Neal! I just got a TLC contact high by reading your post and allowing a gratitude minute at my office. Hope you are having a great summer!

    • Neal Hagberg says:

      That is so wonderful, Mark. Glad it worked! Summer is great here, I wish you well there!

  15. Linda LeClaire says:

    I love this, Neal! I am so grateful for the creative and loving being that you are! Thank you for having the courage to implement these beautiful processes into life at TLC! I am even more excited, if that is possible, about our upcoming Family Camp!

    I could feel the calm and power of quiet gratitude as I read your absolutely wonderful description of the experience!