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An Attitude of Gratitude

Updated: Feb 7, 2021

by Patti Jordan

Anyone who knows me, knows that I LOVE Oprah! In my early years of teaching, I remember coming home from school and tuning into the Oprah Winfrey Show. It was my time to relax after a hard day of work and gleam from the insights and wisdom of someone I truly admired.

When Oprah announced she would be ending her show, I was devastated. I decided to try and get tickets to one of her last 25 shows. I succeeded in getting four tickets to the April 26, 2011 show. I immediately called two of my sisters and my best friend. We were headed to Chicago to see Oprah.

None of us had ever been to Chicago and so it was truly an adventure. We took photos under the Cloud Gate Chicago Bean Sculpture, rode the “L” train, walked the Magnificent Mile (shopping), ate deep dish pizza and Chicago Dogs, and even took in a Broadway show that was in town.

The highlight of our trip was, of course, going to the Oprah show. As we got in the taxi to head to the show, we were filled with excitement. Who would be her guest? Would we walk away with some sort of prize? Would we be seen in the audience when we watched the show later? As we entered the studio, we tried to find out who the guest was. All they would tell us was, “It’s a good show today, you won’t be disappointed, you may even walk out with something.”

Now we were really excited! The show started, and Oprah brought out her guest Phil Knight (co-founder of Nike) and Lance Armstrong. (This was before his fall from grace.) Phil Knight told about how they came up with the name “Nike”. Nike is the Greek God of Victory. He also told how they hired a lady from the Graphic Arts Department at Portland State, who spent 17 hours designing the “Swoosh”. She was paid $35 for her design. They later made it up to her, by giving her a few hundred shares of Nike in 1980. Lance Armstrong talked about how Nike really works with athletes to make shoes that are the absolute best for each sport. The highlight of the show was when Oprah told all of us in the audience that we would be walking out with a special limited-edition pair of green (Oprah’s favorite color) Nikes, made just for Oprah and her audience. We also got a Nike watch that paired with a sensor in the shoe. (This was way before the Apple watch.)

We left the show with our pretty green Oprah bags, stuffed with our shoes, watch, and beautiful green tissue paper! We had decided to walk to a nearby restaurant for lunch. On our way to the restaurant, the clouds began to darken, and the wind began to blow. We were caught in a downpour. Our umbrella blew inside out and broke in the wind, my size 9 leather pumps, turned into size 10 and I couldn’t keep them on my feet. Our beautiful green bags and tissue paper fell apart. We were drenched and barefoot, walking down the streets of Chicago!

Now, some people may have thought the day was ruined. But not us. We laughed so much our bellies ached. It was a joyous experience! We made so many fun memories. We still get together and talk about that trip and how much fun it was. It all boils down to our attitude of gratitude. We were grateful for the opportunity to travel to Chicago, to see Oprah, to get green shoes! It was magical.

Not only did I walk away from that trip with some great shoes and great memories, I walked away with some amazing art ideas!

Every year since visiting the Oprah show, I do a lesson called “Colorful Kicks”. I go over the history of sneakers and then tell my Oprah story to my students and show them my Oprah Nike shoes. I tell them how I got to see Phil Knight, co-founder of Nike. (This one fact somehow makes me a bit of celebrity with my students.) During the next month, students draw a side view and bottom view of their shoe. They decorate and design the side any way they like. They try to copy the pattern from the bottom of their shoes. We discuss how almost everyone’s shoe sole has a different and unique pattern. We then make a clay impression of the pattern on the bottom of their shoes by rolling a ball of clay and stepping on it. These are then fired and painted with metallic paint and turned into medallions.

I have also read a couple of great books because of my trip to Oprah. One is called “Navajo’s Wear Nikes” by Jim Kristofic. The book is about Jim and his brother who moved to Ganado, AZ from Pittsburgh. Their mom was a nurse who had taken a job in Ganado. They moved just as he was entering the 2nd grade. They stopped in Gallup at the Walmart to get groceries before making the last leg of the trip and as they got back in the car, he asked his mom, “When are we going to see some Indians?” His mom said they just were in a store full of Indians. In his mind, he was expecting them to all be riding horses and wearing huge head feathers. He soon came to realize that the kids at his school were just like him, they loved playing basketball and they all wore Nikes. (Nike has a whole Native American Design line of shoes.) For anyone who teaches Native American students, this is a great read.

The other book is “Shoe Dog”, a memoir of Phil Knight, a fascinating history of how Nike came to be a worldwide phenomenon.

Even though Oprah is no longer airing a daily show, I have watched her “Wisdom of Sundays” show. I especially love her focus on constant gratitude. I love her quote about gratitude. “Being grateful all the time isn’t easy. But it’s when you least feel thankful that you are most in need of what gratitude can give you: perspective. Gratitude can transform any situation. It alters your vibration, moving you from negative energy to positive. It’s the quickest, easiest most powerful way to effect change in your life — this I know for sure.”

As art teachers, we all know what it feels like to have a bad day. Maybe a lesson didn’t go as planned, maybe your administrator or parents or students show little appreciation for the hard work you put in every day. Maybe you get caught in a downpour after leaving the Oprah show. Whatever the situation, I truly believe “gratitude can change your perspective and transform any situation.” We can change negative into positive. We do it every day, hundreds of times a day!

As we gear up for the new school year, keep in mind the power of gratitude and think about ways to show your gratitude to your fellow art educators. One very important way to show your gratitude is by nominating someone for one of the Professional Art Awards. Doing so will change your life and the life of the person you nominate. We all love to feel appreciated. When we are acknowledged and appreciated by our peers, administration, parents and students, we work harder. We think of ways to improve, we turn negative into positive and we impact the lives of the students we serve in wonderful ways.

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