And a New Perspective and Meaning of Gratitude
Gratitude. It’s talked about and referenced a lot this time of year.
But it isn’t simply ‘being thankful.’ Or ‘counting your blessings.’
Gratitude is both a mindset and an action.
It’s knowing that what you have and who you are is enough.
It’s the belief that no matter what comes, there is always something to be thankful for, even though it might be hard to identify at first.
It’s foundational to how we treat ourselves and each other.
As an action, gratitude is how we give of our time, treasure, and talents to help others.
Because we know in our core that when we help others, we are enriched.
And November is often a time for reflection, for exploring and expanding your gratitude if you’re in a space that allows it. To gather your thoughts, ideas, and favorite people.
It’s also a reminder of things coming to an end. As the last of the beautiful leaves fall from the trees and the days get shorter. As the fall season ends.
And as such, it has me reflecting on the things I’m thankful for this year.
- My Family
Like you, it’s been a hard year (okay, 20 months and counting!) for me and my family. Several deaths, multiple hospitalizations, health concerns not related to COVID, and so much time apart.
Last Thanksgiving, my immediate family – my husband, two adult children, and me – made the hard decision not to gather in York. We each celebrated in a separate state.
Maybe your holiday looked different last year, too.
And it was hard. We had a goal in mind, to all be together for Christmas, and we were able to do that – wearing masks and being extra careful. But I remember how I felt, so lonely and disconnected, even though we video chatted and did our best to celebrate together. And even though sweet friends surprised me by dropping off a delicious Thanksgiving day meal.
This year we will gather for Thanksgiving in person, and I am so grateful.
- My Colleagues
Community Connections for Children, Inc.’s (CCC) staff is exceptional. They transitioned so quickly and smoothly to working remotely. And immediately stepped up to support each other, the families and providers we serve, and the businesses that rely on child care for their workforce.
The CCC team not only maintained its “normal” level of excellence and continued their “regular” jobs, but they also processed four rounds of CARES funding and are currently dispersing ARPA funds. That’s approximately $30 million new funds administered by CCC this past year.
It’s remarkable the joy and light they bring to their careers, their passions. And I’m honored to work with them each and every day. With all we’ve been through the past two years, I’m more thankful than ever for the amazing people at CCC.
- Childcare Providers
I’ve known for many, many years that the US economy rests on the shoulders of the child care industry. And it’s heartening to see the rest of the country recognize it now as well.
I’m beyond thankful for the childcare providers in our communities, in our region, and across the country. Hard-working, compassionate business owners and professionals in a profession that is woefully underfunded and often disrespected.
You probably know child care teachers are required to follow PA Department of Education standards (aligned with K-12 standards) and many have teaching certificates. But did you know that on average they are paid $10.79 per hour?
And these professionals kept going even when the K-12 systems closed for COVID prevention. They secured waivers and re-opened (or never closed) and continued to meet the needs of children and families. They not only educate but provide critical social interactions for children.
Many programs that served school-age children became “de facto schools” assisting children with their online learning, opened full days when schools (or even just a particular classroom) closed due to quarantine procedures.
I am so thankful for the child care providers who kept going, through unbelievably difficult times. They deserve all of our respect as well as a lot more pay.
- The Regional Business Community
This year, I’m encouraged to see the regional business community support our neighbors.
They stepped up to support the nonprofit community, including the United Way and Give Local York. CCC is so thankful to everyone who made a donation, awarded a grant to support our programs, or supported our fellow agencies.
This region is very generous and invested, and it has made a huge difference to so many.
- The Ability To Shop Local
Speaking of community, I truly enjoy supporting and shopping local. And I’m so thankful for the small business owners, entrepreneurs, and retail associates who show up day in and day out to provide local options.
Some of my favorite spots are the various farmer’s markets because there is nothing like purchasing fresh produce in the same place it was harvested. And my favorite local restaurants, the gems that are well known in our communities. An example? Mexitaly. And Viet Thai Cafe.
I’m thankful for the many diners, bakeries, and local coffee shops – our area is full of great ones.
As for shopping and gifts this year, I’m also thankful for experiences, things to do together, and ways to support talented individuals. You’ll see me at the various craft fairs and holiday bazaars like Christmas in Loganville.
- Quirky, Unexpected Things
It may sound odd, but I’m super thankful for quirky and unexpected things that make my day better. Like discovering there are pockets in pants. Or ten dollars left in the pocket of last year’s winter coat. Or another driver, smiling and waving you on at the four-way stop.
I’m thankful for my Sirius radio on long trips, too. The ability to be transported to a different decade or listen to a favorite artist’s channel. To hear the first notes of a song, especially one I haven’t heard in a long time, and instantly be transported back to those memories.
I’m also thankful for Libby and the ability to listen to books as I drive. And the two amazing people I know that work at OverDrive who make Libby possible.
- A Beautiful Fall Day
This year I’ve been super thankful for beautiful fall days. The blue sky, the changing leaves, the Autumn smells. Fall is my favorite season. Just being out in nature, breathing deep, makes me thankful and calmer.
Cherishing the sounds of children’s excitement while they trick or treat. And the show the gorgeous yellow maple tree right across the street puts on each and every year.
Every year, from the time I was a young child living in Rochester NY, I would go apple picking. We carried the tradition on with my kids. And every year we visit a local orchard. Nothing tastes better than an apple right off the tree.
- Parents and Caregivers
This has been a challenging year for families to determine what is in their child’s best interest. It’s my belief that all families want the best for their children. Sometimes it’s just hard to know what that is, especially when there are so many conflicting opinions.
I’m thankful for the families that are in the trenches, who are doing their best to weed through all the noise and anger. We will never all agree, we never have. But I am thankful for those who have been able to disagree without being disrespectful.
To all the parents and caregivers, I see you working so hard for your families and I’m thankful for you.
- The Goodness of Humanity
Despite the turmoil of the past year, people are good.
Looking out for our neighbors, especially those that are elderly or have health issues.
Random acts of kindness.
Just last week someone walked up to me in a store and handed me a coupon they couldn’t use. All they asked was, ‘pay it forward.’ And I did.
This year, I’m thankful for the goodness in humanity.
- My Close Friends
This summer was the 20th anniversary of moving to York, Pennsylvania. I have lived here longer than anywhere else.
I know I still can’t answer the question, ‘Where are you from?,’ with ‘York’ 😉. But it’s become home.
And I’m so thankful for my circle of friends. Those who were a part of raising my children, lovingly referred to (at least by me) as the “Mom’s Group.” We became friends when our young children met in preschool and remain friends to this day (those kids are turning 24 this year!).
And I’m thankful for my work friends—ones who I’ve worked with for a long time They’ve been my biggest cheerleaders, confidants, and supporters throughout my career. Next month I will be celebrating 10 years at CCC. And I am so thankful to the Board, staff, and our partners.
And I am thankful for those relationships I have formed through my volunteer work, with people that have similar passions and a commitment to improving our community.
- Uplifting Mentors
These are the people who inspire us, who challenge us.
I’m so thankful for one of my early bosses. She was a strong, independent woman, who was on the cutting edge of so many things.
One of the things she said at a Women’s Leadership Conference in Chicago back in the 1980s was, “if no one is following, you’re not leading.”
It’s advice I’ve tried to live by throughout my career.
I’m also thankful for those I went through the York Federal Fellows program with, inspirational nonprofit leaders that are serving our community. Although our program officially ended in 2018, we continue to meet regularly to support one another.
It can sometimes be lonely as a leader, and it’s wonderful to know they are there for me.
How do you reach for thankfulness in a hard year?
If you’re in a hard season, like most of us, look to the simple things you can be thankful for.
Despite the tensions in our schools and media, every day I smile as my first-grade neighbor rushes to the bus stop, passing by my home with his mom and grandma in tow.
And relish in the fact that our staff surprised a coworker who recently had surgery by dropping off a gift and well wishes.
It’s remembering that even on hard days at work, I have an amazing team who believes in me and our mission, and is here to cheer me on when I need it.
It’s a deep knowing that despite all the medical issues faced by family members this year, the endless separations (we are in 14 different states— with no more than two households in any one of those states!) that we’re always and in all ways there for each other.
It’s by leaning into shared traditions, love, joy, and thankfulness that I find strength for handling the hard times.
In this season of thanksgiving – a season all too often skipped over in the rush to get to the season of giving (and getting) – I hope you find moments to stop, reflect, and be thankful.
About Community Connections for Children, Inc.
Community Connections for Children, Inc. (CCC) is a nonprofit centered in the heart of Pennsylvania. They serve childcare providers and low-income families ‒ the ones that have been impacted the most by the pandemic.
For you and your business, CCC helps keep childcare options open for your employees ‒ saving missed work hours and lowering on-the-job stress levels. They work with early childhood education programs and home-based providers to improve the quality of care, ensuring that all children enter school ready to be successful.
Christy Renjilian serves as its Executive Director.
To learn more, visit childcareconsultants.org.