As we enter the holiday season, let’s realize that there are neighbors, young and elder, whose weeks ahead are not brimming with joy. For whatever reason, in whatever circumstance, we know that people in need can be helped if we choose to do so. As the Talmud asks of us: If not you, who? If not now, when?
In honor and remembrance of a family member who was there for you when you needed them most, please thank and support those who illuminate our paths, exemplify kindness, teach justice, attend to our health needs and nurture our futures. What a fitting tribute to the legacy of our ancestors.
As we celebrate Thanksgiving, let’s remember that the holiday’s name is a compound word — Thanks and Giving.
Each of us has much to be thankful for — our lives, families, friendships, and work that fulfills us. While there is no perfection in life, let’s admit that the glass is more than half full for most of us most of the time. Thanking those who we love, admire, depend upon, and have work relationships with is important, but not expressed as often as we could.
Here are Ten Thanks-Giving Thoughts — My gifts from the heart for you to contemplate, practice and share.
1. Let’s share our bounty with those with less - Gifts of Gratitude -Consider the gift of one week’s grocery bill donated to a community food bank, domestic violence or homeless shelter, an infant or child health charity, foster parent association, hospice, veteran’s support agency, your United Way or emergency relief fund as a token of appreciation for what we have, and what others do for the less fortunate.
2. Express our heartfelt appreciation to those who care for others as a profession or as volunteers. Compliment the good works of caregivers for our children and frail elders — those who are dedicated to babies and toddlers or assist people with mobility-restrictions, and help nurture and stimulate their minds.
3. Respect our community leaders for their service. While we believe in representative government, who among us is brave enough to run for public office? We don’t have to agree with all of their policies, but we should respect their service, and hold them accountable for their actions — or lack of action. Silence is the antithesis of effectiveness.
4. Give time to a worthy cause. Volunteerism is time and talent philanthropy! Our investments for the benefit of others builds community and creates a great example for our children. Spectatorism is relaxing, but our community’s needs can be addressed, in part, by sharing our energy. Whether we choose to sing in a chorus, read to a toddler, mentor a youth, or visit a lonely elder, our time is a priceless gift which appreciates in value.
5. Conserve resources by consuming less fuel, reusing, and recycling. Native American culture considers our planet as a parent, worthy of respect and protection. Our throw-away lifestyle is feeding our landfills with trash, and our air and water absorb the residue of fuel-generated pollutants. Preserving our environment is self-preservation, as well as a life-saving gift to wildlife, plantlife, and our children’s children.
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6. Slow down. Whether behind the steering wheel or in conversation with others, speed is not a good thing. Being in a perpetual hurry endangers our lives on the road, and cuts short our relationships with others. Give yourself a few extra minutes in transit to be a safe driver — and listen a bit longer to the words in conversation with loved ones and co-workers. Actively listen and show others that positive attention is a gift worth giving.
7. Put technology in its place. We live in a high-tech, low-touch culture, governed by the beeps, buzzes, and blinking lights of technology. As time is compressed, stress grows. Immediate response raises expectations, reduces careful consideration, and makes us more prone to error. Our children need to know that our eye contact and voices are focused on their needs, too. Cell phones and e-mail should not keep our loved ones on hold.
8. Advocate with assertion, not aggression. Free speech is not an invitation to be offensive. Responsible advocacy requires thoughtful strategy, practical solutions, and effective conversation. Advocacy is the heart-felt expression of a wrong to be righted, with composure and grace. An advocate’s power is in persuasive and persistent articulation, and the recruitment of others to the cause.
9. Health is a form of wealth. Making sure we eat right, exercise, and taking time to rest and relax are the keys to clear thinking and long-term effectiveness. Our bodies cannot support us unless our minds resolve to take care and be careful. During the COVID-19 pandemic, preventive health measures are especially essential.
10. Take optimism pills every morning — the time-release kind. Positive attitudes and negativity are both contagious. Those who believe they will make a difference can achieve their goals. Pessimism is the mind’s way of giving up before the first step is taken. We who strive to make change for the better in our lives, neighborhoods, and the world around us should stop whining and start winning. The power of one, multiplied and magnified, is the only correct formula for progress.
Holidays remind us that bridges across the generations are built upon the stanchions of memory.
We who recall the glow of candlelight reflecting the faces at our grandparents’ table understand how vital heritage is for appreciating who came before us and who we are. What a fitting tribute to the legacy of our ancestors.
Jack Levine, Founder of the 4Generations Institute, is a family policy advocate, based in Tallahassee. He may be reached at Jack@4Gen.org