Thanksgiving has become an emotional holiday for us. Some not so great things have happened over the past few years around this time of the year. Last year was by far the worst with the horrible experiences leading up to and resulting from the death of Wally. There hasn’t been a day this year that we haven’t thought about Wally, the suffering that he endured and the lessons of life we learned from him while he was alive. I’m back in Ohio typing this as we prepare for our own Thanksgiving with family and friends and of course the annual Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning. Over the past few weeks, I realized that as I was taking inventory of our own life and making sure that we had shored up any issues related to the effects of this year’s financial crisis on our professional and personal life, that thousands of people and families will spend this Thanksgiving without jobs, without the lifestyle to which they’ve become accustomed, and in many cases without hope. In short, I began to engage in Thanksthinking.
Thanksthinking is an incredibly important step. It means that you’ve crossed over into the human condition, where empathy and concern for others exists. But Thanksthinking is where 99% of people stop and it is simply not enough. Thanksthinking doesn’t put food on people’s tables or keep people warm in the winter. Evolving from Thanksthinking to Thanksgiving can be fairly easy, unless you Thanksthink about it too long. To that end, here are a few simple things that you can do this week to help with this transition:
- Call your local YMCA or community center to volunteer this holiday and beyond. Include your children in this experience to reinforce the importance of Thanksgiving to them at an early age. Turning this into a family tradition would be a tremendous gift for all.
- Find out if there is a local family in need and support them this holiday in ways that they can’t. There is one family here who’s father has been living with Huntington’s disease. He is now out of work and with no means to financially support his family. They are out there. Ask your friends if they are close enough to facilitate a conversation or if you should contact them yourself, and then do it. Contrary to popular rhetoric, for some people things really don’t just work out for the best and your efforts can make a difference.
- Donate your clothes and toys – it’s a great excuse to clean out your closet to find items you have never worn, that you really don’t need, and can be the difference between life and death to those out there battling this winter.
- Call a friend who either has recently lost his/her job or is at risk of losing it. Don’t assume that they have hundreds of people calling them and recognize that the feeling of loss and helplessness is shared equally by those formerly in blue collar jobs and senior VP offices. Invite them to spend Thanksgiving with you or just to hang out. Invite them to run your local Turkey Trot. You’ll be amazed at how many people are searching for any sign of a lifeline right now and your simple gesture can help them to right their course. If you need help with how to have these types of conversations listen to the Career Crisis E-Mail episode of The Managers Tools podcast.
I’m not a fatalist, far from it, I always tend to see the best in people and situations but I am also a function of the human condition and of my experiences. And based on both of those, I am convinced that it is precisely when times are toughest on us that we must accept our obligation to help those who are most in need. By acting you’ll bridge the divide between thinking and giving and make a huge contribution to their life and yours.