A year of pandemic and political fatigue has left many of us feeling frayed.
But reconnecting with the values that Americans commemorate around Thanksgiving and Veterans Day – gratitude and its offshoot, service – can open the door to new ways of thinking.
Consider the spirit that prompted Native Americans to help Pilgrims survive a tough New England winter by giving them food, a gesture that was celebrated in the 1621 Plymouth feast. That same spirit motivated 9-year-old Aggie Barrington, when she visited a Columbus, Ohio, homeless shelter and found people could no longer eat hot meals together, to make sack lunches with her brother, Patrick, and deliver them to the shelter. Since March, more than 2,000 kids have made more than 21,000 lunches for hungry neighbors under the nonprofit Seeds of Caring.
Volunteering offers a cornucopia of good according to research, including boosting empathy, inspiring a sense of purpose, curbing social isolation, even rekindling a feeling of shared national identity.
Perhaps the real gift, however, is the change in perspective gratitude and service offer. Especially valuable during these times is the reminder that gratitude is a state of mind – regardless of circumstance. As the 13th-century Persian poet and Sufi mystic Rumi was reported to have said, “Thanksgiving is sweeter than bounty itself.”