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  • Nan Russell

The Other Side of Gratitude

These are disturbing times. Multiple wars. Natural disasters. Political upheaval. Hateful rhetoric. Random violence. Misinformation campaigns. Rampant suffering. The onslaught via social media, television, print, and audio sources renders me, by the end of most days, distressed and discouraged, wondering where humanity and our collective future is heading.

These daily intrusions have pushed me to think differently about gratitude this Thanksgiving and reminded me that Benjamin Franklin wrote in his autobiography about a morning and evening question. Upon waking he would ask, “What good shall I do this day?” At day’s end reflecting on, “What good have I done today?”

Wrapped in my tiny drama of a couple of personal rough patches, I haven’t thought about asking those questions in a long time. Somewhere between my need-to-dos and want-to-dos, I forgot about my get-to-dos.

Certainly, Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on the blessings we have, the wonders of life, the joys of family, the connections of friends, along with a host of other cherished thoughts. But shouldn’t it also be a time to be grateful for what we can offer and give back to life? I wake each morning with people to love, work to do, passions to follow, ideas to share, and books to write. I am grateful for what I still get to do and what small difference I might be able to make in someone else’s life.

As we give thanks for all we’ve received and for those who make our lives better, happier, healthier, and easier, I hope we also pause to consider the other side of gratitude – the side we bring. The world needs our talents, kindness, compassion, tolerance, and love; it needs our ideas, perspectives, experiences, and wisdom; it needs our open hearts and minds.

Whether it’s reading to a child or solving a crisis, sharing our unique talents and knowledge keeps us alive, in the deepest sense. But it does so much more. It adds hope and positive vibes to the community where we live, the country we call home, and the planet we share.

In the words of Jane Goodall: “You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” So, this Thanksgiving I’m looking at the other side of gratitude and starting Franklin’s morning and evening questions anew: What good shall I do this day? What good have I done today?


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