Wednesday, November 26, 2014

An Attitude of Gratitude

On this Thanksgiving Eve I wish to post on the subject of gratitude. More specifically, the expression of gratitude. This is a matter which needs addressing because there are more people than ever who now comprise our society who are entirely too entitlement oriented.

There are numerous examples that we could point to. We are just now coming off of two nights of rioting, looting and arson in Missouri. The lynchpin of all that activity was the shooting of Michael Brown. It escapes me how throwing a brick through a storefront and rushing in and carrying out all the merchandise you can carry and then setting that store on fire in any fashion eulogizes the falling of an apparently not all that innocent teenager. I wonder what life would be like in Ferguson, Missouri if law enforcement pulled all their personnel out of that city for the remainder of days? Instead of gratitude for all the under paid and under equipped law enforcement officers in this country we see unbridled contempt expressed by a loud and brash minority. The majority of people in this country respect and cooperate and are grateful for that deputy, police officer, constaple or whatever you want to call him or her. Our gratitude should be in remembrance of the fact that we are able to sleep safely and warmly in our beds with little concern for what happens during the night because of those who patrol and watch in our behalf.

I think of the countless levels of resources, donations and volunteers directed towards New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina. The church I attend was a temporary housing site for refugees from that storm here in Tallahassee. I stationed myself at the church as a resource several times over a month. I spoke with many people who expressed appreciation for a roof over their heads and hot meals and protection from the night. Then there were others who griped and complained because their cots were not large enough. They did not like the food served. There were even incidences of slapping other refugees for invasion of space or other provocations. I remember seeing on TV a man coming out of a WalMart in New Orleans with a flat screen TV that he had retrieved during the siege of looting. He was wading through hip high flood water with that TV sitting on one shoulder. Never mind that he did not have a dry place to house that TV nor electricity to operate it. Instead of his mind being on gratitude for survival his was on getting something for nothing. How very sad that is.

The company for which I worked thirty years would give all employees a day off for community service each year. It was your choice as to where you volunteered your time. I elected to volunteer around the holidays with Christmas Connection. The goal of this charity was to fulfill a never ending supply of needs lists turned in by social workers.  Resources were tapped to fulfill many of those lists. They needed help delivering those packages to the families. I remember getting hugged by mothers who were so concerned about how their children were ever going to get a gift for Christmas. I also remember being afraid for my life going to spots in the community that were notorious for crime. I remember many recipients who glared at me, rifled through the boxes and did their best to intimidate me. Forget a thank you. I was just happy to get back in my car and lock the door.

I worked for a stretch at a homeless shelter here in Tallahassee. Every day volunteers would serve food which had been donated for that purpose. Businesses, restaurants, fraternities and sororities would give excesses of food to the effort. 150 or so homeless would be fed every day. The food was hot and nutritious. All comers were served. Over the time I worked we served thousands of hungry homeless people. I remember being overwhelmed at times. I can count on my two hands the number of thank yous that came from those we fed.

I remember back to a time when I was very busy with my work running the government affairs operations for a large corporation in three states. I was really hard pressed for time. My wife has an enormously compassionate heart. She had a friend who was married to a certified school teacher who had lost his job. I had retained a lobbyist/consultant who had ties to higher ups in our school system. I arranged to take this unemployed teacher to lunch at a fine restaurant with these educators. After the lunch I handed off his resume’ and asked for help in getting him a job. He was hired to teach in a middle school within the next week. He worked for 6 months and walked off the job. That was almost 20 years ago. I am still waiting on a phone call, note, etc from him expressing his gratitude. Somehow, I don’t think it is going to arrive.

I mentored numerous people over my thirty year career. I coached and helped many get various jobs in the world of pharmaceuticals and allied health positions. I was always happy to handle a resume’. Many of those people thanked me for my help. Twice as many did not. I remember when I lost my job. I was 55 years of age and was out because of a sell off of our division. I remember sending resume’s out to numerous people, many of whom I had helped along the way. I remember the sting of not even getting a phone call from the overwhelming majority of them.

I reflect back on all of these memories and come to the conclusion that people are selfish at heart. It is a very rare thing to have someone tell you thank you. I find myself, in the final analysis, being grateful that luck, an education and hard work has placed me in a position to help other people. I am fortunate to have been healthy all of my life and blessed with an ability that made me employable. Life has blessed me with children and grand children and a wonderfully loving wife. They have all given me much more than I have ever given them. I live in the land of liberty and draw the breath of freedom.

I am grateful this Thanksgiving for all that I have been given.