Thanksgiving week is one of my favorite times of the year because it helps me to remember the many things I have to be grateful for: my family, relatively good health, friends, job, religious freedoms (I should probably use more often) and too many other blessings to list. It’s the time of year I pause to reflect on the small moments throughout my life that have brought me profound joy and happiness. These moments are significant to me, but likely not remembered by anyone else; little moments of joy that transcended this forgettable, common life I live into what I cherish as an extraordinary life experience, probably, a lot like yours.
For example, I remember with great fondness how many years ago a humorous comment I made at work caused uncontrollable laughter by all for several minutes; nobody but me remembers, but the memory still brings a smile to my face. More significantly, I remember the way I felt the first time I kissed my spouse, and the first time in my adult life I cried from pure joy, alone in a hospital nursery after years of fertility treatments, cradling my firstborn child. My oldest memory of pure joy, though partially faded by time, is of me being mobbed by a bunch of puppies. But I still clearly remember laying on the warm grass, the feel of soft paws with tiny claws on my skin, the way they playfully pounced all over me, the play bites (They didn’t even hurt! I bragged to my father after); the tickle of wet licks that didn’t seem gross at all, even on my face, how the puppies yelped with delight that matched my own and their unique puppy smell which, even today, transports me back in time to a childhood, wonderful and less complicated. Now, with grown children and grandchildren of my own, I marvel still more at all I have to be grateful for this Thanksgiving season.
As I, or likely anyone, reflects on their most enjoyable moments, it becomes clear that most were either with, or made possible, by others. Anyone reading this has likely made possible countless moments of joy for others too, so on their behalf, here’s a great big thank you! You probably don’t realize how many lives you’ve made better by just being you. Perhaps we are at our best when we do kind things for others and it’s likely the purest form of gratitude we can demonstrate, to simply be kind to others. There’s a video about a famous philanthropist, Chuck Feeney; after amassing a fortune, he dedicated his life to giving it all away to those that needed help. He pointed out that philanthropy (and kindness) feels good, but so much of philanthropy is done posthumously; he’d rather feel good before he dies. Hard to argue with his logic!
Most of us do not have a lot of money to give away, but everyone can afford to be kind. As one ponders all the great good so many philanthropists have accomplished and how grateful one ought to feel for the good things in their own life, perhaps these feeling can inspire each of us to do more. Especially during this pandemic, so many have less, or are suffering physically, emotionally, are lonely or struggling financially; anyone can do more by simply being a little better, a litter kinder and embracing the spirit of philanthropy more fully, which is, giving while expecting nothing in return.
Expecting nothing in return is not quite right is it? Because one will feel better, even good, for having been more kind or giving, according to at least one successful philanthropist. And if this good feeling causes one to reflect a little more on all the blessings and moments of joy in their life like remembering puppies or being all alone in a hospital nursery cradling a miracle in their arms or, something else. One is indeed richly rewarded and perhaps, the object of their kindness and generosity will in turn, have a little more joy to be thankful for this week too.
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