Monday Morning Jim
Thanksgiving, like all holidays, brings forth family traditions that endure over time. One of them in my family is to gather around the dinner table, with hands joined, as we go around in a circle with each family member sharing something for which they are thankful. Then we close with someone saying ‘grace.’
Sometimes I notice a little anxiousness creeping into their body language as we get nearer to our gathering, fearing having to find something to say, or expressing it aloud. In some years, this led to a few of the kids saying they were grateful for ‘family,’ hoping that would do the job and get them off the hook, but we outlawed rote expressions, and soon found they’d overcome their anxiousness to share something very specific and meaningful.
And I often wonder what it is about expressions of gratitude and thankfulness that make us anxious or hesitant or even tongue-tied. We should not be.
For twenty-five years in a row when I was growing up, my Dad spent his Thanksgiving and Christmas mornings in a Providence homeless shelter, carving turkeys, calling on meat-cutter skills he relied on for his living while in school. He did it as an expression of his faith and a desire to care for those less fortunate than him, and as a way of giving back. But as I reflect on this, I realize he did it also for another, more powerful reason.
You have to imagine the scene at our Thanksgiving dinner table. Six spirited kids zinging each other with one-liners while Dad took his place at the head of the table. He’d sit patiently waiting for the noise to settle down long enough for him to lead us in grace.
Often he would sing it! He served in the church choir and believed he had a good voice but we of course disagreed and would snicker and giggle anticipating his version of grace. Yet every time, he would first pause long enough for us to quiet down and then he’d softly recite a number.
“Nine hundred and fifty three,” one year.
“Seven hundred and twenty nine,” and another year.
“Twelve hundred and forty eight,” and yet another.
And would then bow his head for a moment to allow the number to sink in, then say or sing grace.
He was always affected by the number of people they served – and in particular of the families that showed up! We knew he was telling us something without saying it: that he was grateful for that which we had, and he wanted us to know it. He knew life could be hard and would often say to himself ‘there but the grace of God go we.’
And importantly, he wanted to show his gratitude. Which is the simple, powerful and enduring message he was sending to us: gratitude shown is greater than gratitude spoken. Doing was greater than talking.
Years later, this truth led my siblings and I to organize a Christmas party in a Providence homeless shelter, which we’ve done for the past 15 years. We are always amazed at the number of people we served dinner to and the stories that emerged as we sat alongside families, making decorations and ornaments, and visiting with Santa. And, importantly, our children and their cousins are alongside us, seeing what we were doing, serving and decorating as well, and have been deeply affected by it. One of my daughters even did her high school senior project on homelessness.
In reflecting on this season of thankfulness – I realize the source of my grateful heart springs from my Dad’s example, and without really thinking about it, been modeling it for my children much in the same way he modeled it for us.
I am grateful because he was grateful. And my Mom had the same spirit, always coming home from the grocery store with one extra bag to give to a needy family in the neighborhood. She too was blessed with the gift of gratitude, and for that gift, I am particularly fortunate to have had it passed on to me and my siblings, and was particularly thankful to have been able to tell him that while he was still with us.
I am also extremely grateful for the team we’ve brought together here at Equity, and the bond we’ve formed in service to others – our customers, our communities, and each other – especially in these trying times. We have faced epic challenges this and last year, and while it might be easier to see that which is hard, I instead see the remarkable: your resourcefulness and resilience in the face of those many challenges, and have had my heart warmed by the sight of each of you just putting your head down and running at that which is hard, like a herd of buffaloes heading into a storm.
We’re fortunate to not only have been able to keep our doors open but also thrive despite those challenges for which I am particularly grateful. And I appreciate your heart, your hard work, your commitment to our business and our customers, and the impact you have on the lives and livelihoods of our coworkers, customers and their customers.
It is a unique experience, for which I am very grateful to help lead.
By: Equity National November 23, 2021 Uncategorized