How Grateful Are You?
David Freund, Chief Leadership Officer

We’re inching closer and closer to Thanksgiving, which is one of my favorite holidays. I love that as a nation, we stop for a day and focus on being thankful for the many blessings we have. At our staff meeting last week, United Way of CNY made a presentation to kick off MACNY’s annual campaign. The speaker gave us a brief history behind the United Way and shared that 102 years ago the mayor of Syracuse brought out a chest and asked people to contribute. His goal was $300,000 over three weeks. He ended up collecting $1,000,000. This year’s United Way goal is $5,400,000. Using the amazing world of Google, I discovered that $1,000,000 in the early 1900s would be $24,000,000 today. Something is wrong when we can only raise 20% of what they did a century ago. I think we have forgotten how blessed we are and we think we need much more than we actually do.

My mom and her parents fled Europe as the winds of war began to blow in the late 1930s. As a seven-year-old, she recalls going to the butcher shop near their home and asking the butcher for a nickel’s worth of bologna, sliced thin. She also shared that dinner was often one piece of meat, cooked in fat. The meat was for my grandfather. My mom, aunt, and grandmother would dip a slice of bread in the drippings. They were poor, but you would never hear them say that. They were always grateful for the blessings they had rather than musing about the things they did not have. My grandmother was one of the most grateful people I have ever met. What did she know that we do not?

The answer I’ve landed on is this. My grandmother lingered over life’s blessings. It was that simple; she spent time reflecting on the blessings she had in her life. She had plenty to complain about, but she chose not to. She lived in the moment and didn’t dwell in the past or long for some future time. Being grateful allowed her to leave fear behind, even though a totalitarian regime took her father and brother away, never to be seen again. For as long as I was blessed to have her in my life, I remember her as a joyful person. She was one of those people who brightened any room she entered.

The best way to cultivate gratitude is to keep a gratitude journal. Each day, write down a few things that you are thankful for. You will be combining the benefit of reflection and journaling with the intentional act of creating a more positive mindset. As you prepare for Thanksgiving, why not give it a try over the next week or two and let me know how you make out? You will not regret it. I promise!