How to Be Grateful, Not Hateful


What can you can keep after giving it away? That’s right; I’ve asked you a riddle and the answer will be imbedded somewhere in this blog. What, a gimmick to get you to read this all the way through? Yep, I’m not above trickery to get you engaged to read about being thankful as many of us reflect on and prepare to wrap up the end of the past fiscal year.

Last week, here at The Lincoln Regional Center campus, we celebrated Arbor Day by planting 12 trees in memory of former coworkers who passed away. This is an annual tradition I really look forward to. Arbor Day has always been special to me as one of my ancestors in 1874 was the Governor of Nebraska. Gov. Robert Furnas officially proclaimed Arbor Day to be a state holiday. Every day that I possibly can, I spend time with the trees as I take a noontime walk through our beautiful arboretum.

When I see something particularly beautiful, I sometimes take a quick picture of it. Whenever nature surprises me by its majesty, I think of my son. The five year anniversary of his passing will be next week.  I am so grateful for his life. While many of us have mourned losing a very well loved and charismatic member of our family, and think of what could have been, or what we lost, I think of what we gained.

In his nearly 20 years here, he gave us so much. He taught us so much. I am grateful every time I think of him, and do even more so when I see beautiful things in nature that make me feel like he’s right here. Sometimes when a single leaf or flower petal falls close to me, or a squirrel nearly drops an acorn (or walnut!) on my head, I think, “Thanks Max! I know you are here.”

When we are grateful instead of hateful, I think it fills our hearts enough to have more to give. In health care, particularly regarding mental illness, we are faced with a lot of “What if’s”. What if my son didn’t choose to ride a motorcycle on such a windy day? What if I choose to hug my surviving children a little harder, listen to their myriad silly questions that I’ve heard three times before? What if I put more patience into the world than I take from it?

Recently I read about the Positive Post-It Project. A student chose to do something positive instead of being defined by a negative experience she’d had. She and her friends decided to share “put-ups” around school instead of “put-downs.” She asked “What if I shared encouragement with others?” “What if I posted a sticky note on everyone’s locker with random inspirational messages?” What could happen? Check it out on Google or Tumblr and you too can see the power of gracious words.

True to my word, I give you the answer to my opening riddle, which is “your word.” You can both give it and keep it. As you consider taking a healthy noontime walk, I hope you’ll also consider what you can give in your workplace that isn’t traditionally tied to the rewards we often have no power to give, not something monetary, yet has tremendous value: a part of yourself, your word. Authentic leaders do.

Tary Paris is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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