While sitting around the dinner table at Thanksgiving, lively conversations turned to the many tumultuous events of the past year.

Starting off with a new president that has the country divided and uncertain of its future. Despite which side of the political campaign you are on, I am sure you have experienced overly heated debates when conversing with anyone—family, friends, co-workers, or even mere acquaintances—whenever political opinions are expressed.

Then are the horrific events, both Mother Nature and man-made disasters, raining down on us all year.

The white nationalist rally in Virginia which erupted into violence; Houston, Florida, and Puerto Rico hurricanes; Las Vegas & Texas shootings; California wildfires, not to mention terrorism abroad and even closer to home here in New York.

Yes, it’s been a rough year. Many would say it has been a terrible year.

But despite knowing this, I was still shocked when I overheard a relative say, “Really, what is there to be thankful for?”

What am I thankful for?

I gazed around the table at my family. My siblings and their spouses (not to mention mine), my children, one with a lovely boyfriend, nieces, nephews, newlyweds, two new babies, cousins, extended family…well, I know what I have to be grateful for.

I am incredibly blessed that my immediate surroundings are safe and my family is well. However, I do understand how easy it is to feel frightened, angry, even slightly depressed by the world events we’ve endured this past year. But to feel like there is nothing to be grateful for? That I just don’t understand.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Every time more devastating news hits, I am just as outraged as anyone. I’ve cried my share of tears, screamed in frustration, and often worried about the state of the world my kids and future grandkids will be living in. This past Saturday, I couldn’t shake the horror and depressing feelings that mounted while I read about the terrorism at the mosque in Egypt.

But, If you choose to look through a different lens—not the one focusing on all the political unrest, disasters, and problems—but the one that is looking at how community and neighbors are rising up to help those in needs, there is so much to be grateful for.

Even this week, months after the Hurricane Irma left thousands homeless and still struggling, I received an email from a colleague. He is donating 100% of the proceeds for one of his new programs to the victims who need help rebuilding their lives in Florida. Now that is something to be grateful for—the unselfish acts of humankind to help others in need.

Although the stories are fading, there were hundreds of them recounting how neighbors and even complete strangers reached out to help those in need when natural disasters threatened homes and lives.

I was in Las Vegas only two weeks post the terrible shooting. The folks who live and work there bonded together to keep the city thriving. People proudly wore their #VegasStrong t-shirts, which we bought and wore as well. All the proceeds from the casino sales of those garments went to the wounded and the victims’ families.

And the same article I read about the attack in Egypt stated, “Local people brought the wounded to hospitals in their own cars and trucks.” Survivors did not run the other way in fear but stayed to help in any way they could. That is the good in human nature, and that is something we can all appreciate.

Yes, bad things happened this year. And sadly, inevitably we will face more in the future. However, every morning that we open our eyes, we can find things to be grateful for.

Despite the violence that erupted in Virginia, we do live in a country that permits peaceful demonstrations. We are allowed to voice our difference in opinions. In many countries, people are not. Doing so puts them in harm’s way.

Whether we agree with their political views or not, there are those who have dedicated their careers to making our world a safer place. There are men and women every day who put their lives on the line to make ours easier.

So I do believe we need to be grateful for all of that. But we also need to be thankful for the little things. The homes we live in, the food on our tables, the pets that bring joy to our lives.

We should appreciate the comedians that make us laugh; the filmmakers, TV producers, and writers that give us stories that allow us to escape our crazy lives, and enter the world of entertainment. Despite the allocations happening in Hollywood, there are still many fine people who work with integrity. Let’s not forget them.

Gratitude is essential, not only because it feels so much better than being ungrateful and miserable but because it is good for our health.

Numerous studies are proving that practicing gratitude can boost your immune system, lower your blood pressure, and improve the quality of your sleep. When we think about all that we appreciate, we decrease cortisol levels and may even increase oxytocin, the bonding hormone involved in relationships that make us feel good.

And that is what helps us all during tumultuous times. Being connected, having meaningful relationships, and being filled with compassion for humankind. With that attitude, we can all make the world a better place.

So please don’t think there is nothing to be grateful for. Look at your world and count your blessings. You are well enough to be reading this post, smart enough to be developing an opinion about it, you likely have a home to keep you warm, food on your table, and a job to support you. Those are no small accomplishments, and they are well worth being grateful for.

The holidays are upon us. Let’s fill them with joy, love, and gratitude. Perhaps instead of wrapped gifts, we can make donations for aid in recovery and to those in need. Spend time at a shelter and offer our hands to those less fortunate than we are. Small acts of kindness will be much appreciated, and make us feel great too!

Please share with me your thoughts, and what is it that you are grateful for right now. I wish you and your family a peaceful, safe, warm, and happy holiday season.

being grateful, being thankful, devastating news, gratitude, uncertain future
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