When I think back on my early years at Hebrew school, I recall that the first song/prayer we learned was “Modeh Ani.” My teacher explained that this was the first prayer we should recite upon waking, while still in bed. I always thought it was funny to be lying in bed singing this song. Our teacher also went on to explain that by beginning our day with a prayer that says “I thank You”, we were actually preparing ourselves to welcome and be grateful for a new day. It surprises me (in a good way) that those lessons learned as an 8-year-old child stayed with me, and I think of them as warm, fond memories. I am thankful for my teachers.
When raising our own children, we had a family ritual of going around the dinner table on Shabbat and each person got to talk about the worst things about their week and, of course, the best things that occurred each week. In a way, when each one of us shared the best of the week, we were also acknowledging our thanks for the things in which we were most grateful. I am certain that just the opportunity for each person to have a say and to be heard (listened to) was a special moment each week to appreciate each other.
With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, I was again reminded of an expression that I had heard years ago to begin each day with “an attitude of gratitude.” It is also the title of a book by New York Times best-selling author Lewis Howes. An attitude of gratitude is typically defined as “making it a habit to express thankfulness and appreciation in all parts of your life, on a regular basis. For both the big things and small things alike.” Howes writes about cultivating a grateful mindset and acknowledges that this takes work. It seems to me that the benefits for practicing this habit results in increased happiness and joy in our lives and in the lives of those we touch.
Whether giving thanks to God or just feeling grateful in our own reflections, this expression resonates with me on so many levels. First, I am thankful for family and friends who provide support and encouragement through good times and, sometimes, tough times and for the many things that make day-to-day life so wonderful. I am also most appreciative of a community that embraced me since I arrived in the Lehigh Valley and especially as I transitioned into my new role. How amazing it is to be surrounded by you, as together, we address important and meaningful work each day!
As we head into the Thanksgiving season, perhaps we can try to hold onto those feelings of gratitude. In the meantime, thanks to each of you for inspiring me. Warm wishes to you and your family for a beautiful Thanksgiving holiday.