As the weather finally cools and fall color rapidly paint a new landscape, I draw on the energy of the seasonal change - and get excited that such a miracle is taking place once again! One of God’s greatest gifts to us, I believe, is experiencing His handiwork through the weather and the impact it has on our senses.
This time of year also provides us with the occasion to reflect on our many blessings — those we have experienced as a nation, as a YMCA and also personally. As Thanksgiving Day approaches, I have challenged myself to be more deliberate about counting my blessings and expressing thankfulness for the people and things that make life good, that make life special. As I contemplate my blessings, I praise God and lift up my family. What would we do if we couldn’t have conversations with our Maker and be reminded that He has the universe under control? As He reveals in scripture, His love is so complete, He is always there for us and never forsakes us!
My family is next on my list, as they fill me with constant inspiration and keep me reminded of my purpose to lead and to provide. I am also thankful for my friends, who to me, are like family. They are forgiving and pray for me, while pushing me to reach my greatest potential. Next is my Y staff family that dedicate themselves, many times sacrificially, to make the Y a community that truly cares and serves all people. An extension of the staff are virtually countless Y donors, board and program volunteers who give of their time, talent and treasure to ensure that the Y will always be a community pillar organization that transforms the lives of anyone who wishes to participate. And our Y members – how grateful I am to have people to serve, who make the Y a part of their daily lives!
The more I consider such blessings, the more of them I recall. It’s almost indescribable how good it makes us feel to work through the mental process of gratitude, causing us to be better and do more for the world around us.
As I gave more thought to the art of gratitude and researched its benefits, I learned that there truly are spiritual, mental, and even physical advantages to exercising gratefulness. A study in the 2003 Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, indicated that “pro-ratitude” could boost “pro-social” behavior such as helping others — essentially, thankfulness can help us to be a better friend to others.
Another study, published in 2011 in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, indicated that gratitude helps us to sleep better. It recommended that we journal 15 minutes before bedtime about what we are grateful for and we’ll fall asleep faster and sleep longer as a result!
If that’s not enough, WebMD references a study by the University of Utah which indicated that being thankful is linked to a better immune system. The study showed that people who are grateful are also more optimistic. More optimism results in more immune boosting cells in the body.
One final mention about how beneficial being thankful is for us, is one I have personally experienced during times of extreme loss, especially prevalent during the holiday season. Remembering and being thankful for a loved one who has passed or a special pet who is no longer with us can help us heal at a level no medication can match. Gratitude can protect us from negative emotions and actually enables us to heal.
As you enjoy the crisp autumn, I hope you will invest some time in “thankfulness.” And not just because it makes us feel good, but because God tells us to and He knows what’s best for us. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, says, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Jesus Christ for you.”
President and CEO
YMCA of Greenville
Following the example of Christ, the YMCA builds a healthy spirit, mind and body for all.