This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.
It’s official: Giving thanks isn’t just a feel-good exercise. It actually has positive, tangible payoffs.
According to a study funded by the National Science Foundation, people who feel grateful for help are more likely to provide help to others. (That could explain why poorer folks give a higher percentage of their income to charity than wealthy ones.)
But giving thanks is also good for the givers. They’re less envious and resentful, they sleep better, exercise more and may even experience lower blood pressure, reports Robert Emmons, a psychology professor at the University of California, Davis, and author of “Thanks! How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You Happier.”
So keep that in mind as you give thanks today. You’re not just being grateful; you’re a force for good in the world and for yourself.
What are we thankful for this Thanksgiving Day?
• The end of the recession – at least if the economic indicators that supposedly gauge these things are correct. Home sales are improving, the economy is no longer shrinking and gas is reasonably affordable.
• The safety net. Many Americans who lost their jobs have experienced hardship, but help has been there – from family, from unemployment benefits, from social service agencies and from local food banks.
• Volunteers. They stock shelves at those food banks, pick up donations, tutor schoolchildren, drive the elderly to appointments, rock preemies at local hospitals, raise money by participating in walkathons, repair washed-out park trails and pick up litter on their daily walks. Our world would be a darker place without their efforts.
• Donors. Times have been tough for nonprofits, too. Most have experienced a drop in contributions, reflecting the strained finances of individuals, businesses and local governments. We’re thankful to those who at least maintain their level of giving to charitable organizations. That help is needed now more than ever.
• Heroes. They come in many guises, from the soldiers who are spending the holidays far away from home, to the family members who struggle with their absence and pray for happy reunions. They are the police and firefighters who put themselves between us and danger and work to protect our lives. They are the teachers who go the extra mile for children. They are the workers who go out in crummy weather to get our power back on and our roads passable again.
And they can be everyday people who rise to the occasion – like the four drivers who prevented a despairing woman from jumping off the Narrows Bridge last week.
• Our political system. Yes, it has its problems, but we regularly inaugurate a new leader – sometimes from a different party – and no military coups are involved and no death squads eliminate the competition. It happened again for the 43rd time when Barack Obama became president in January.
Candidates regularly step forward to participate in this system, and this past election included many worthy prospects. Not all of them were elected, but we’re grateful that they tried. That’s what makes the system work as well as it does.
• You. You’re reading this, which means you’re a literate person who appreciates a daily newspaper (or reading it online). This business – and this country – wouldn’t survive without people who love the written word.