By Michelle R. Dee, Senior Director of External Affairs
It is so easy with busy lives to forget to stop and be thankful. It seems like there is never enough time in the day to do what needs to be done, without trying to add one more thing to a growing list of “to dos.” There are days when if one more person, little or big, asks me a question or demands my attention I feel like I will lose it. When do I have time to be thankful, between emails, kid’s activities, demands at work? Then there is the question of what to be thankful for. Thanking a higher power for the beautiful sunset can sometimes seem a little dramatic in my world. Most days, I am thankful that my kids made it out the door on time with everything in their backpacks and I made it to work in less than 90 minutes (it is New Jersey after all.)
Yet, I also understand the intrinsic importance of thankfulness and that taking a minute to stop and be thankful also helps me take a second to breathe. When our children were very young my husband and I started a tradition at family meals. We say a grace that has been passed down in our family for generations, but at the end, we also go around the table and say something that we are grateful for, youngest to oldest. Friends that eat dinner with us have to play along. More often than not, dinner comes right after homework or after school activities and the chaos that accompanies that. Twenty-five percent of the time I am giving thanks for patience. What has truly come out if it is the opportunity to see what matters to the people you love. There was the night that my son was thankful for his dad’s sarcasm, because he knew that meant his dad loved him. There are also some nights that the best we can do is to be thankful that the day is nearing the end.
As we are gearing up for the holidays at Jersey Cares, I have been discussing more with my sons what is going on at work and asking them how they would like to be a part of it. As my boys plan their involvement in upcoming events, listen to things that we need or drives we are running, I have begun to notice small changes. They have always been boys with big hearts, but lately even their thanks have taken on a new tenor. They are now thankful more often for the basics: food on the table, safe schools, warm clothes and parents that care about them even though we drive them crazy. Interestingly, they have also begun to ask about more ways to get involved.
So, it seems that I have time to be thankful, every day. It isn’t always easy but it is important. It is also contagious. The more thankful we are; as parents, as friends, as neighbors; the more thankful the people in our lives become and the more inspired they are in converting that into action. Every day is a great day to convert gratitude into grace and share it with someone, but this time of year it takes on special meaning. If you are looking for a way to say thank you and give back, check out our website http://www.jerseycares.org/HOC__Volunteer_Opportunity_Calendar_Page or call us. We really enjoy being the facilitators of gratitude.