Gratitude: a healthy recipe for Thanksgiving
Gratitude is an ethic that experts now see as equally secular and religious – not to mention a healthy recipe for Thanksgiving all year round.
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Case in point: Professor Froh tells of an 11-year-old boy from a poor neighborhood who got up at 5 every morning to be bused into the wealthier school district where Froh worked.
The boy had no winter coat. A teacher found what Froh describes as an "old-man sport jacket" for the boy to wear, a coat that a poor kid in a status-conscious setting might see as worse than nothing. This kid, on the other hand, bubbling over with enthusiasm, saw Froh in the hall and ran to him.
"He was grinning ear to ear. He couldn't wait to show me he had it," recalls the psychologist. "I still get goose bumps when I think of it."
Gratitude leads to success
Of course, everyone's old-man sport jacket is different.
Concerned about the emotional state of her candidate pool as the recession plundered the financial sector in 2009, Janice Abert, a New York City executive recruiter who specializes in the financial industry, organized a peer networking group to help the job hunters keep their skills honed and spirits up. The group became a sort of port in the storm for many, including Brooke Furst, an unemployed Wall Street sales executive and father of four, who has been in and out of work twice since 2009, as two separate companies he worked for closed down. Through it all, Mr. Furst has been thankful for the simplest acts of kindness: the colleagues who shared their contacts with him, who made introductions, who offered encouragement; and especially for those who returned his phone calls despite knowing well that Furst was without work, and therefore – on the surface, at least – without anything to offer them except need.
For his part, Furst perpetuates what experts describe as the cyclical nature of the process of thanksgiving by consciously doing the same kinds of things for others. "Being grateful tends to activate an altruistic state of mind," says Christian Miller, professor and leader of the Templeton Foundation-funded Character Project at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Furst's grateful attitude, recruiter Ms. Abert says, is also characteristic of job seekers who are attractive to prospective employers: "You always knew he appreciated what you did, and so people bent over backward to help him."
And Furst is aware that money troubles are often the least of life's worries. Job or no job, he says, "I wake up every morning and I thank my Lord," especially for his healthy family. He has seen Wall Street titans – "the proverbial Masters of the Universe, decamillionaires" – whose children have been gravely ill, who would gladly trade problems with someone like Furst. "They'd give every dollar in their bank account" to have their children be well, he says.
Abert says that grateful job seekers have an advantage: "You want to hire people like [Furst] who are going to create a culture that's gracious to work in."