Thanksgiving in grade school was always about the same each year. We’d make a turkey by tracing the shape of our hands on brown construction paper (I can still picture the thumb as the head, with the other fingers spread out as tail feathers), then we’d go around in a circle and say something we were grateful for. I recall being thankful for my family, my bike, weekends with NO homework, and later my new Atari game. Even back then, I always wondered, what about those other 364 days a year?
SHOULDN’T WE BE EXPRESSING THANKS, ON THOSE Days, TOO?
The answer is a resounding, “yes”, study after study shows that gratitude is not only good for your health, but also encourages positive aging. According to Oprah.com (and many others) expressing gratitude with a “gratitude journal” is one way to capture the joy of simple moments that might otherwise pass us by.
As there is no wrong way to begin a gratitude journal, I decided to make it a goal to list three things each day I was grateful for. Just as I began my journal, Hurricane Mathew came blowing into town, and really helped me focus on the essentials. Here’s my list for Friday, October 7th: 1. I was grateful to have an awareness of the elder community through my work at the Jewish Pavilion, and the ability to put out a “public” Facebook notice encouraging our followers to check on older friends and neighbors, who might have challenges with preparations (cases of water can be heavy for any age!). 2. I was grateful we had the capacity to provide refuge to three out of town students who would otherwise be alone in their apartments during the storm. 3. I was thankful that our electricity lasted throughout the storm’s first day, despite some crazy winds, and that my loved ones were safe and dry.
On October 8th my list changed a bit. This time I was grateful to have a crew to eat our melting food, once we lost power. I was thankful to have neighbors (of all ages) to commiserate with as we cleaned up our yards, noting that the damage could have been much worse. And I was also grateful for all my charged electronics (and thankful we have moved beyond Atari), from my phone to my computer, iPad, and back-up chargers etc. that made life seem ‘almost normal’ until the sun set, and we were in the dark.
While I felt a little lighter (despite the lack of actual lights) when I expressed my thanks with my new journal, there are many other ways of expressing thanks, some of which can be shared by others. Nancy Ludin, Executive Director of the Jewish Pavilion, writes a traditional “thank you note” (stamp, envelope, the whole handwritten works) expressing her gratitude to just about everyone who touches her life or makes a difference in the life of a senior. I should know because I have a stack of saved notes, thanking me for articles written, hand-made bracelets donated to seniors, and even for having a “giving heart” (Thanks, Nancy!).
Though sending an email is a much quicker form of communication, Nancy shares that she learned to write hand-written notes of thanks from her mom, who taught her the importance of doing “that extra little thing” that lets people know that their giving made a difference.
At 80 years young, my neighbor Lois Silverberg (whom I did check on before the hurricane, along with a few others), shows her thanks for a life well- lived by donating her time to charitable causes. On Mondays, you can find Lois at Savannah Court in Maitland (*volunteering with the Jewish Pavilion), Co- leading a Happy Hour for residents of all faiths. Lois greets the crowd with an outreached arm and warm hug, and asks each one about their week, their health, and/or their grandchildren. The residents smile back and share how much they’ve missed her in the last 6 days. On Thursdays, Lois arranges flowers with friends from the Sweetwater Garden Club for patients at a local hospice. In between her engagements, she manages to serve on the Board of Florida House. Lois claims she gets as much from giving to others, as they receive. She shares, “I am so thankful to have met all these wonderful people, who touch my life each week.”
So however you choose to express your gratitude, as they say at Nike, “Just Do It”. Keep a journal, write notes, say it out loud, and/or give back to others. With all our help, “Thanksgiving” can last well beyond the leftovers.
One more thing…Gratitude Journal October 26th: 1. Thank you for reading this blog ‘til the end. 2. I’d be ever so grateful, if you could pass it on to a friend. J
*Lois Silverberg is being honored as Jewish Pavilion Volunteer of the Year, along with Jane Edelstein.