For this week’s column, Dr. Gramma Karen asked Jack Levine to share a special Thanksgiving message. Jack Levine, is the founder of 4Generations Institute, an organization that promotes intergenerational policies and innovative programs to benefit families. Jack’s advocacy contributions are widely recognized.
My Thanksgiving Message
By Jack Levine
As we enter the holiday season, let’s realize that there are neighbors, both young and elders, whose weeks ahead are not brimming with joy. For whatever reason, in whatever circumstance, we know that people in need can be helped if we choose to do so. As the Talmud [a compilation of ancient teachings regarded as sacred and normative by Jews] asks of us…If not you, who? If not now, when?
In honor and remembrance of a family member who was there for you when you needed them most, please thank and support those who illuminate our paths, exemplify kindness, teach justice, attend to our health needs, and nurture our futures. What a fitting tribute to the legacy of our ancestors.
As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, let’s remember that the holiday’s name is a compound word – Thanks and Giving. Please invest these few moments to consider my ideas for enhancing Thanksgiving and the entire holiday season ahead.
The Original Thanksgiving
Each of us has much to be thankful for – our lives, families, friendships, and work that fulfills us. While there is no perfection in life, let’s admit that the glass is more than half full for most of us most of the time. Thanking those who we love, admire, depend upon, and have work relationships with is important, but not expressed as often as we could.
- Let’s share our bounty with those with less – Gifts of Gratitude – Consider the gift of one week’s grocery bill donated to a community food bank, domestic violence, or homeless shelter, an infant or child health charity, foster parent association, hospice, veteran’s support agency, your United Way or emergency relief fund as a token of appreciation for what we have, and what others do for the less fortunate.
- Express our heartfelt appreciation to those who care for others as a profession or as volunteers. Compliment the good works of caregivers for our children and frail elders…those who are dedicated to babies and toddlers or assist people with mobility-restrictions, and who help nurture and stimulate their minds. Our valiant health professionals deserve the kindnesses of family members and neighbors all through the year, but especially at holiday time.
- Respect our community leaders for their service. While we believe in representative government, who among us is brave enough to run for public office? We don’t have to agree with all their policies, but we should respect their service, and hold them accountable for their actions…or lack of action. Silence is the antithesis of effectiveness. Vote and give voice to your priorities through effective advocacy.
- Give time to a worthy cause. Volunteerism is time and talent philanthropy! Our investments for the benefit of others builds community and creates a great example for our children. Spectatorism is relaxing, but our community’s needs can be addressed, in part, by sharing our energy. Whether we choose to sing in a chorus, read to a toddler, mentor youth, or visit a lonely elder, our time is a priceless gift that appreciates in value.
- Conserve resources by consuming less fuel, reusing, and recycling. Native American culture considered our planet as a parent, worthy of respect and protection. Our throw-away culture is feeding our landfills with trash, and our air and water absorb the residue of fuel-generated pollutants. Preserving our environment is self-preservation, as well as a life-saving gift to wildlife, plant life, and our children’s children.
- Slow down. Whether behind the steering wheel or in conversation with others, speed is not a good thing. Being in a perpetual hurry endangers our lives on the road, and cuts short our relationships with others. Give yourself a few extra minutes in transit to be a safe driver…and listen a bit longer to the words in conversation with loved ones and co-workers. Actively listen and show others that positive attention is a gift worth giving.
- Put technology in its place. We live in a high-tech, low-touch culture, governed by the beeps, buzzes, and blinking lights of technology. As time is compressed, stress grows. Immediate response raises expectations, reduces careful consideration, and makes us more prone to error. Take a breather from all the numbing numbers and ask others to be considerate in public and private spaces by turning the “on” switch “off.” Our children need to know that our eye contact and voices are focused on their needs, too. Cell phones and e-mail should not keep our loved ones on hold.
- Advocate with assertion, not aggression. Free speech is not an invitation to be offensive. Responsible advocacy requires thoughtful strategy, practical solutions, and effective conversation. Clear and consistent communication with allies and adversaries alike sets the stage for progress. Advocacy is the heartfelt expression of a wrong to be righted, with composure and grace. An advocate’s power is in persuasive and persistent articulation and the recruitment of others to the cause. Support advocacy organizations that represent your values and policy goals.
- Health is a form of wealth. Making sure we eat right, exercise, and taking time to rest and relax are the keys to clear thinking and long-term effectiveness. Our bodies cannot support us unless our minds resolve to take care and be careful. Grow a vegetable garden. Being healthy examples to our children in nutrition and behavior sends positive signals for their future actions. During the COVID-19 pandemic, preventive health measures are especially essential.
- Take optimism pills every morning… the time-release kind. Positive attitudes and negativity are both contagious. Those who believe they will make a difference can achieve their goals. Pessimism is the mind’s way of giving up before the first step is taken. We who strive to make a change for the better in our lives, neighborhoods, and the world around us should stop whining and start winning. The power of one, multiplied and magnified, is the only correct formula for progress.
Holidays like Thanksgiving remind us that bridges across the generations are built upon the stanchions of memory. We who recall the glow of candlelight reflecting the faces at our grandparents’ Thanksgiving table understand how vital heritage is for appreciating who came before us and who we are. What a fitting tribute to the legacy of our ancestors.
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