The holiday season is here and I’m typing up my column in the midst of turkey and stuffing and pie and much good spirit surrounded by family. Thanksgiving is a once a year deal where the world seems to slow and the most important thing is gathering around the table with those you love. Everything feels right in the world.
While Christmas is a joyful holiday of magic, Thanksgiving is the more subdued day that begins the season of giving. It really isn’t possible to sustain the emotions, goodwill and abundance of food that occur that day and it’s the rarity of it that makes it so special.
However, there are pieces of the day that we can and should carry on throughout the year. Beyond the theme of giving and sharing one’s good fortune, there are three things that, to me, go along with Thanksgiving that are best repeated at random or brought into our living philosophies.
The first is gratitude. Thanksgiving is also about giving thanks. It’s about feeling grateful for what you have, rather than feeling unfulfilled over what you don’t have. Get a journal and write down things you are thankful for each day. My mom gave me a gratitude journal years ago and when I started taking the time to take notice of all I had to be grateful for, it really changed the way I looked at everything and everyone around me.
Next is appreciation. It may sound similar to gratitude, but it’s really quite different. In addition to being grateful for what you have, you need to truly appreciate it. That means realizing the value in something or someone and not taking things or individuals for granted. You can be glad you have people in your lives, but you also need to go deeper and see them for how they enrich your life. You need to skim past the imperfections and recognize what makes them unique and so important to you.
Kindness is the last virtue that I believe is essential to carry on for us to be happy. It means smiling. It means being genuinely interested when you listen to someone speak. It means doing meaningful gestures that will brighten someone’s day or make a difference in someone else’s life. It means being thoughtful of those you know and reaching out to those you don’t know.
I’m a frequent user of Facebook for both personal and work use and it’s a tool that can enable individuals and groups to do such good, but it can also be misused easily and negativity can spread like wildfire. Sometimes pages that are intended for one purpose become a platform for venting and ranting and complaints unrelated to the actual topic.
I thought it would be nice to create a page that would spread only the good and started a Facebook page for the community called “Lansing Acts of Kindness.” I created it last month with the description being “to challenge the people of Lansing to do 100 kind acts by the end of the year.”
There are close to 200 likes on the page and I’m posting the kind acts that are shared by others, or that I do or that I observe or hear about — more than 70 so far. I also post inspiring stories, photos and videos that I come across and also opportunities to donate or contribute to charities and good causes. If you are on Facebook, feel free to join in or stop by to see all the kind acts being done in your community. And if you want your kind act to be shared anonymously, just send it as a message.
Naturally, when I started the page I got some negative feedback. I got comments that kind acts should be done privately and you shouldn’t tell others about them. While I can understand that line of thinking, I also believe that goodness can spread quickly and reading about other kind acts can inspire each of us to do more of our own. My mom, who is never short on great advice, has always encouraged me to compliment others and perpetuate the positive. “If you think they look pretty, tell them. If you love their outfit, let them know,” she’d say. I agree with Mom. Why keep the good stuff to yourself? I wish you all a great holiday season and beyond full of gratitude, appreciation and kindness.