Written by: Tammy Hopper, Chief Strategic Initiatives Officer, National Safe Place Network

By definition – thankful is easy to understand.  “Thanks” is an expression of gratitude – gratefulness – for something we have or have been given. It seems as if this would be simple and yet for some it is one of the most challenging concepts of all.

My boss has a thankful list on the board in her office. Each time I see it, there are references to the love of her life, her children, her grandchildren, her cat, the staff – and I know that she is truly grateful for the items on her list.

I tried to make a list on the board in my office. I put such things as family, my dog, the NSPN members, Safe Place licensed agencies and as I stared at it – I wondered if there was any significance to what I identified first. Am I more thankful for my dog than my family (though technically my dog is my family)? Were there things I was leaving off the list that are critically important? Chocolate? Hallmark Christmas movies? Sunshine, moonlight and fall leaves? As I thought about it I realized if I spent all the time thinking about giving thanks I would never get around to doing it.

So, in the spirit of the holidays, I am sharing my updated list. I encourage each of you to create your own list and remember, there is no rank order to my list – don’t get lost in the details.

1)      My colleagues – it is because of them that work isn’t work.

2)      Chico Romeo Houdini Hopper – the aforementioned Chihuahua/Jack Russell mix who wants to hunt but is scared.

3)      My family – be it through DNA or ANA (Always Nurturing and Amazing) – my family keeps life interesting and full of laughter and love.

4)      The right to vote – things don’t always go my way but I have a say in the matter and that is a blessing.

5)      People who work in service industry jobs – I can complain if I sit in line waiting for a lunch order but I am not behind the line listening to the complainers. They work hard for little pay and deserve some grace.

6)      Staff at NSPN member and Safe Place licensed agencies – Each of you make a difference in ways too many to count.

7)      White Cheddar Cheetos – my hands and clothes thank you.

8)      Flushing toilets - without going into details they are so important in my life.

9)      My mother’s holiday dressing recipe – it is a staple in my family and though she has been gone for 11 years this month, she is with us as I cook and as we remember her love.

10)   Scarlett – My 1996 Toyota RAV 4 who has 284,567 thousand miles and a brightly lit check engine light and who has never let me down.

My current list represents just a portion of who I am and how I want others to see me. There are so many other things that I could and should add if I allowed myself to get lost in the “rightness” of my list. The reality is I can never say thanks to everyone who deserves it and for every bit of grace and goodness that I have in my life. It is not that I have led a life free of loss, disappointment, fear, and sadness. However, it is because I have led this life that I can be most grateful for…anything and everything. If is true that the shadow is only visible because of the light, I can choose where I spend my time – shadow or light. I will always strive toward the light and I am grateful it is there. 

If you have taken the time to read this, I want to say thank you. Please create your own list and share it with others in your life. Most of all, thank yourself for all you do and how you do it for youth, families, and communities. Happy Thanksgiving and happiest of holidays.

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