We will celebrate Thanksgiving next week, which is an opportunity to reflect on those things for which we are grateful and the people for whom we are grateful.
I have noticed that those people who seem the happiest and most fulfilled in their lives, those who are able to face adversity with resilience, seem to be those who reflect on gratitude throughout the year and who, as today’s guest blogger puts it, turn “thankfulness into action.”
Here is an important message of thanksgiving from today’s guest blogger, Beth Toal, St. Luke’s Health System vice president, marketing and communications.
- David C. Pate, M.D., J.D.
The arrival of autumn. Leaves and temperatures are falling, days feel shorter and quiet time in front of a warm fire is more appealing as we make our way toward winter.
This is also a time when it feels natural to pause and reflect on the abundance in our lives and all that we have to be thankful for.
The Thanksgiving season centers on thankfulness, of course, but it also calls on us to explore our feelings of gratitude. The terms are interrelated. I like to think about gratitude as thanks in action. To be thankful is to put gratitude into action. Both terms reflect deep appreciation, the recognition that something special has taken place, something that catches our heart, mind and spirit, all at once.
In my work at St. Luke’s, I have the privilege of seeing thanks in action every day, inside our walls and outside through the good work of individuals, dedicated community partners and our community as a whole.
Take for example A.J. and Suzie Balukoff, two of our community’s most dedicated volunteers.
At a recent event where the Balukoffs were being recognized for their many generous contributions to Idaho, A.J. shared a story about his challenges as a young man to fund his education. He was committed to higher education, but he didn’t have the resources to attend college until a generous soul, someone he had never met, provided him with a scholarship for his freshman year.
He made the most of the opportunity by completing his degree and building a career that provided his family with the resources to generously give to many causes that benefit our community. He shared that he has never forgotten the generosity of the stranger who invested in him and his education, and regularly acts on his thankfulness by funding scholarships for other young students who need a leg up to pursue their education. By being thankful, A.J. recognized there was something he could do to make a difference in the lives of others, and he acted on it.
Consider also the generous gift made by the Idaho Elks Association to St. Luke’s to help fund the expansion of children’s services. Lodge members, many of whom have experienced their own health challenges, took a big step in expressing their gratitude for our community and the quality of health and rehabilitation services available and came together to donate $5 million to St. Luke’s construction of the new Idaho Elks Children’s Pavilion.
Idaho Elks Association members recognized there was something they could do, working in partnership with St. Luke’s, to help ensure children and families throughout Idaho had access to the specialty services they need to achieve their best health. They recognized that something special in our community could occur with their help, and they acted on it.
And look to the community collaboration occurring at the Cascade Food Bank. Residents living in this community are grateful for their beautiful surroundings, their tight-knit community and the quality of life they enjoy. For many residents, however, access to healthy, fresh food is a challenge, so supporters of the food bank decided to help.
Food bank volunteers, the clients they serve and committed community partners came together to build garden boxes, plant seeds and grow fresh produce to help supplement food bank provisions. Clients pitched in to help tend and harvest the garden and distribute the bounty. Experienced gardeners volunteered to teach classes on how best to plant and produce crops during the short growing season. The knowledge and donated supplies helped food bank clients apply what they learned at home and start their own gardens to help feed their families.
And something unexpected happened. The food bank became more than a place to pick up needed supplies. It became a place of community and new connections. Community members, volunteers and food bank clients alike recognized that there was something they could all do to help each other and build on what they were grateful for. Together, they acted on it.
Thankfulness in action isn’t reserved for one season of the year. We can all find ways, big and small, to turn gratitude into action every day. All it takes is finding a moment of thanks and allowing it to broaden our perspective about what might be possible if we took action. It’s the shift in perspective that allows us to turn our sense of gratitude into something bigger.
Our lives are full of these moments. There is so much to be grateful for. What better way to show it than to ensure others feel and experience the gift of that gratitude by turning our thankfulness into action?
Beth Toal is vice president for Communications & Marketing of St. Luke's Health System, based in Boise, Idaho.