As part of an ongoing series, Thrive is asking some of the most interesting people we know to tell us what’s been making them hopeful lately. Here’s what GRIT author and Character Lab CEO Angela Duckworth shared:

I have a Mother Theresa in my life.

Many years ago, when she immigrated to the United States from China, my mother met a Catholic nun who tutored her in English. Because the nun could not pronounce my mother’s Chinese name, she suggested taking the name of the woman whose name is virtually synonymous with kindness.

My mother, Theresa, taught me what it means to give without asking. For years, our family made room at the Thanksgiving table for near strangers who had in one way or another entered my mom’s orbit. If you complimented my mother on a scarf or a porcelain dish, you’d soon find yourself holding it as a gift. And, of course, she doted on her three children and her husband — always putting our needs before hers.

Here’s a note my 84-year-old mom Theresa sent me this week. While recovering from the flu, she was confined to her apartment and unable to do much. But she had enough energy to email me:  

I woke up this sunny morning and saw more red buds popping up on the tree outside my window. Then I heard birds singing and watched them dancing around my neighbor’s bird feeder. I already felt better and now I feel lucky and happy. It is so amazing to witness the changing seasons. This is living.

I believe the wellspring of my mother’s kindness is gratitude. And because gratitude is a renewable resource, it stands to reason that even in our darkest moments, there will always be hope for humankind.

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  • Angela Duckworth

    CEO and Co-Founder of Character Lab, UPenn Professor of Psychology

    Character Lab

    Angela Duckworth is co-founder and CEO of Character Lab, a nonprofit whose mission is to advance scientific insights that help kids thrive. She is also a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, where she co-directs the Penn-Wharton Behavior Change For Good Initiative and Wharton People Analytics. Prior to her career in research, she was a math and science teacher in the public schools of New York City, San Francisco, and Philadelphia. Angela’s TED Talk is among the most-viewed of all time and her book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, was a #1 New York Times best seller. You can sign up to receive her Tip of the Week here.