My wife and I are counting family blessings this holiday season. We welcomed our first grandchild in July and a second son-in-law into our family this August. We get a picture or video almost every day of our grandson, Teddy, and are filled with joy each time. Our two sons finished grad school in May with honors and both are working in Boston. We’ve entered a new phase of life as doting grandparents and empty-nesters. Thanksgiving, like all holidays, brings forth family traditions that endure over time. One of them in my family is to gather around the dinner table, with hands joined, as we go around in a circle with each family member sharing something for which they are thankful. Then we close with someone saying ‘grace.’
Sometimes I notice a little anxiousness creeping into their body language as we get nearer to our gathering, fearing having to find something to say, or expressing it aloud. In some years, this led to a few of the kids saying they were grateful for ‘family,’ hoping that would do the job and get them off the hook, but we outlawed rote expressions, and soon found they’d overcome their anxiousness to share something very specific and meaningful.
And I wonder what it is about expressions of gratitude and thankfulness that make us anxious or hesitant or even tongue-tied?
For twenty-five years in a row when I was growing up, my Dad spent his Thanksgiving (and Christmas) mornings, in a homeless shelter, carving turkeys – calling on meat-cutter skills he relied on for his living while in school. He did it as an expression of his faith and a desire to care for those less fortunate than him, and a way of giving back. But as I reflect on this, I realize he did it also for another, more powerful reason.
You have to imagine the scene at the Thanksgiving dinner table. Six spirited kids zinging each other with one-liners while Dad took his place at the head of the table as he sat patiently waiting for the noise to settle down long enough for him to lead us in grace. Often he would sing it! He served in the church choir and believed he had a good voice but we of course disagreed and would snicker and giggle anticipating his version of grace. Yet every time, he would pause long enough for us to quiet down and then he’d softly recite a number.
“Nine hundred and fifty three,” one year.
“Seven hundred and twenty nine,” in another.
“Twelve hundred and forty eight,” in yet another.
He would then bow his head for a moment to allow the number to sink in, then say or sing grace.
He was always affected by the number of people they served – and in particular of the families that showed up! We knew he was telling us something without saying it: that he was grateful for that which we had, and he wanted us to know it.
And importantly, he wanted to show it. Which is the simple, powerful and enduring message he was sending to us: gratitude shown is greater than gratitude spoken. Doing was greater than talking.
Years later, this truth led my siblings and I to organize a Christmas party in a Providence homeless shelter, which we’ve done for the past 15 years. In the early years both my parents were with us. We are always amazed at the number of people we served dinner to and the stories that emerged as we sat alongside families, making decorations and ornaments. And, importantly, our children are alongside us and their cousins, seeing what we are all doing, and all have been deeply affected by it. One of my children did her senior project on homelessness.
In reflecting on this season of thankfulness – I realize the source of my grateful heart springs from my Dad’s example, and without really thinking about it, I've been modeling it for my children much in the same way he modeled it for us.
I am grateful because he was grateful. And for that gift, I am particularly grateful and fortunate to still be able to tell him that.
I am also very grateful for the team we’ve brought together here at Equity, and the bond we’ve formed in service to others – our customers, our communities, and each other. I appreciate your heart, your hard work, your commitment to our business, and the impact you have on the lives and livelihoods of our customers and their customers. It is a unique experience, for which I am very grateful to help lead.
- Jim O'Donnell, President of Equity National Title
By: Equity National November 11, 2022 Uncategorized