Laura Russell, Denison University – Reading Reality Through the Lens of Gratitude

laura-russellHow do we learn to value the things we already have?

Laura Russell, assistant professor of communication at Denison University, discusses gratitude.

Dr. Laura Russell is an Assistant Professor of Communication at Denison University. Drawn to issues concerning individual and collective well-being, she centers her research on understanding the communication of personal and relational health. As a phenomenologist at heart guided by theories of narrative and dialogue, she observes, participates in, and examines processes of human recovery in an array of contexts. In her current work she investigates how virtues, such as gratitude and forgiveness, play a prominent role in how people construct meaning for living well after crisis and/or personal struggle. Furthermore, she explores ethical questions concerning the social politics of health and human worth. Her recent publications appear in Health Communication, Qualitative Inquiry, and Life Writing.

Dr. Russell’s received her Ph.D. from the School of Communication Studies at Ohio University. Her foci on health and organizational communication not only apply to her scholarship, but also to her community involvement. She currently holds a position on the Board of Directors for Behavioral Healthcare Partners, a nonprofit organization that serves Licking and Knox Counties in Ohio. In this role, she seeks opportunities to involve both her students and surrounding community members in serving the well-being of others.


Reading Reality Through the Lens of Gratitude


In a culture that often focuses on giving forth and achieving, when and how do we learn the art of receiving. With Thanksgiving on the horizons we are called to pause and question not what we have done, but rather what we have been given. Gratitude is celebrated through holiday songs, charming news stories, and poetic greeting cards. Yet while promoting ways to be thankful, these popular understandings often frame gratitude as a simple act of acknowledgment. But could it be something more? What does it mean to live in and through gratitude?

Imagine the many “givens” in our lives that have always “been there.” How do we become better receivers capable recognizing all that has been and continues to be given to us?

Perhaps one way to do so is by practicing gratitude as an act of both reading and receiving? Reading through the lens of gratitude entails searching between and below the lines of our lives’ surfaces to detect the value dwelling in all that exists before us. Value here is key. Value does not present itself transparently; rather, we conceive and express value in response to that which we receive. Value is the giving end of receiving. Therefore, when celebrating “giving thanks” we must first be attentive to how we are “receiving” and then giving forth the value we realize through the eyes of gratitude.