Let’s Give Thanks!

Don’t let the sun go down without saying thank you to someone, and without admitting to yourself that absolutely no one gets this far alone.  Stephen King

To say that 2020 has been a year to remember is an understatement.  Everyone knew it would be an interesting year with the presidential election on the horizon, but no one could have predicted the unprecedented nature of what was to come.    In order to move forward in a positive way, it is helpful to visit the journey so far.   Here are just some of the events that have shaped 2020:

  • March 15th, 2020 will forever be remembered as the day the U.S. shut down and business changed (forever?). We moved to a virtual work environment and placed a new (or more pronounced) meaning on first responders and the term “Essential Employee.”  Sadly, the epidemic continues to rage here and abroad.  As of the middle of November, COVID-19 claimed more 1.34 million lives around the world with more than 250,000 of those in the U.S.
  • A record-breaking hurricane season with 29 named storms, the most in recorded history. At the time of this writing Hurricane lota is wreaking havoc in Nicaragua.
  • Australia declared a state of disaster amid large bushfires that killed 500 million animals, burned 47 million acres, killed at least 34 people and displaced thousands of people.
  • The 2020 Stock Market Crash – The COVID pandemic triggered a global recession as many countries went into lockdown. The Dow Jones industrial average suffered its worst single-day point drop ever on March 9 dropping more than 2,000 points or 7.79%, followed by record setting drops on March 12 and 16, 2020.
  • The death of George Floyd sparked nationwide protests against police brutality and systemic racism while bringing attention to the Black Lives Matter movement.
  • A historic number of wildfires in Oregon, Colorado, and California burned (and continue to burn) more than 8.2 million acres of land.
  • Murder hornets arrived in the United States. These 2-inch-long invasive species are known to decimate entire hives of honeybees and were first discovered in Washington State.
  • A major explosion in the capital of Lebanon, Beirut, caused at least 204 deaths, 6,500 injuries, $15 billion in property damage and left an estimated 300,000 people homeless.
  • The death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg left the United States mourning the loss of a feminist and legal icon. Ginsburg spent much of her legal career as an advocate for gender equality and women’s rights, winning many arguments before the Supreme Court before being appointed to the highest court in 1993.
  • A tumultuous election puts a fine point on our deeply divided political landscape.

It has, undeniably, been a difficult year.  Is there anything to be thankful for as we sit down to Thanksgiving dinner?  Amid all the tragedy and turmoil of 2020, it is still important for us to pause and take time to be grateful.

Though being grateful may just seem like a nice idea during this time of year, gratitude actually has a profound effect on health.  A study at the University of California, San Diego found that feeling gratitude was associated with better sleep, a decrease in depression, decreased fatigue, and a more positive outlook on life.  According to Psychology Today, grateful people experience fewer aches and pains and report feeling healthier than other people.  Gratitude also enhances empathy and reduces aggression.  These are all things we could use an extra dose of this year!

Here are some things to be grateful for during this challenging year:

  • Essential Workers! At the top of many people’s gratitude list are the essential workers helping to get us through these difficult times.  The pandemic has highlighted the heroism of medical workers and medical support staff who have worked month after month without respite.  They show up every day to care for those infected with COVID-19, putting their own health at risk.  Restaurant and grocery workers are continuing to ensure that our communities have access to food while many of us stay safe at home.  The list of people sacrificing their own health to ensure that our society continues to operate is a long one. We should pause to thank them for all they have done this year.
  • Public / Private Space program! This year we saw a renewed focus on our Space program with a public / private partnership between NASA and SpaceX, launching two missions and giving six astronauts the opportunity to contribute to the important work at the International Space Station. Just last week the most diverse team of astronauts, including the first African American, made their way from Kennedy Space Center to the International Space Station where they will spend the next six months contributing to important scientific research.
  • Vaccines in WARP SPEED! Dozens of pharmaceutical companies across the world have worked tirelessly to produce a safe and effective vaccine to combat COVID 19.  Right now, there are promising signs that two companies, Pfizer and Moderna, are about to accomplish this in the coming weeks.  While a vaccine will not cure our dilemma overnight, it is the beginning of the end and can give us all hope that a return to normal is possible in the coming months.
  • Coworkers! Thank your employees and coworkers for their flexibility and willingness to accept change as we navigate our way through these unique times.  Whether your staff has shifted to working remotely or if they are still coming in and enduring extra measures to ensure the health and safety of their coworkers, they have all made sacrifices to adjust to this new reality and ensure that business can continue to operate as normally as possible.  Thanking your employees, not only is it the right thing to do, it is also good for business.  A recent report showed that 69% of employees say they would work harder if they were better appreciated.  According to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace, 85% of employees are not engaged in the workplace.  Gratitude can greatly increase employee engagement.
  • Employee Engagement! The holidays are a great time to start or enhance employee engagement programs.  Form a team or task force to focus on ways your company can increase an attitude of gratitude.  Gratitude does not have to be time-consuming, expensive, or extensive.  Acknowledging your employees’ hard work or positive attitude with small tokens of gratitude will go a long way to improving employee engagement.  Something as simple as a thank you note, public recognition at a meeting, or a small gift certificate for coffee will not only encourage others to perform better, but will also make your employees feel appreciated for their hard work, thereby increasing the likelihood that they will continue to be engaged and connected to the company.
  • Support System! When you reflect back on 2020, remember those who have supported you during this unprecedented time.  Family, friends, coworkers, and even our furry friends have banded together to help one another navigate these challenging times.  In some ways we have become closer in our isolation.  Send a thank you note, hug your partner, or take your dog for an extra long walk to recognize that 2020 would not have been the same without them.

Take a moment to reflect upon all the things for which you have to be grateful.  Let the people in your life, community and at work know that you appreciate them.  It is good for your health and it will increase engagement and positivity in those around you.

And… here is to the future.  As humans, we have weathered terrible storms in the past and have shown again and again that we come together as people to solve the most pressing challenges and to build the future.

Have a very happy Thanksgiving and know that we are grateful for you!