I was sitting in my physician's office feeling pretty relaxed earlier today. Suddenly the woman seated next to me turned and apologized.
Clearly stressed out and beyond the breaking point I didn't quite grasp why she was making amends. Apparently she had blocked my car for a minute or so as she was clumsily attempting to park.
At the time which was about 15 minutes earlier I'd been annoyed then immediately forgot about it.
Suddenly here I was conversing with this lovely woman who had so much on her mind. Not the least of which she was late for work, the doctor was running behind and my appointment was before hers.
That was the easy part to solve -- we swapped appointments.
As we sat there her tale unfolded. She has trouble walking, her husband is disabled, she had been out of work for a long time and was going to be late for her new job.
Worse and in my opinion most damning -- the bank is foreclosing on her home.
The stock market is at record highs yet most Americans are struggling to make ends meet. There's a disconnect somewhere!
I couldn't help with the major issues in her life. I did talk about stress and worrying doing more harm than good, to which she replied "my husband tells me the same thing, but I just can't stop."
A couple of quick suggestions about contacting our various local politicians for help seemed to bring her a tiny bit of relief.
We finished our conversation as she kept thanking me over and over again. What I felt was her pain and distress and wished I could do more.
As I sat waiting to be called in I thought about Thanksgiving, its origins and about how lucky I am.
My life like most has challenges, yet I pride myself on virtually never complaining. Then I had an aha moment.
I complain all the time -- but simply in my head. The more I thought about it and coached myself a bit the realization sunk in that I have so much for which to be grateful.
Then as my brain tends to do, I began thinking about people I know -- those with minor problems, daily complaints and general dissatisfaction with life. Pretty light stuff that often weighs heavily on their minds.
My thoughts moved on to the cycle of poverty I witnessed as a grade school teacher. I'm still friendly with a student so far back we're both Baby Boomers!
Poverty prevented her getting a higher education. She's a single mother, works for minimum wage and has struggled to make ends meet for the last 30 years.
She has lots of reasons to feel jaded.
But wait -- did I leave out that for the past 15 years she has worked the graveyard shift so she could see her child off in the morning and be home when school lets out?
What a great mom!
I could go on with a litany of stories of those less fortunate -- the disabled, homeless, critically ill. The list is virtually endless.
But let's circle back to Thanksgiving. It's one of our nation's most popular holidays and one of the few times a year families make the effort to spend a joyful day together.
Now consider the second syllable of Thanksgiving -- giving.
I'm not referring to charitable donations. That's easy if you have the money. Give all you can.
However I'm talking about helping another human being on a more personal level. For some this comes easy. For others just as well meaning it's a bit more difficult to wrap their arms around.
I Googled "what ways can you help people" and received 956,000 results in 0.50 seconds.
I read a few of the hits and found this one 35 Ways to Help the Homeless.
Reading some of these articles is truly eye opening! There are ways to help you may never have imagined.
Thanksgiving's origin is in part about the Pilgrims and Indians joining together to give thanks for making it through a cruel winter. We still get freezing winters but now most of us are lucky enough to be inside, warm and enjoying a great meal with those closest to us.
My Thanksgiving Challenge To You!
Lead a five minute discussion while you are enjoying dessert! The topic: How each participant can put more 'giving' into Thanksgiving.
I'm willing to bet the conversation will be a rewarding feel good experience and perhaps the highlight of the day. You may even find your own 'troubles' dissipating as you contemplate adding kindness and charity to your Thanksgiving plate.
Earlier I mentioned how the littlest thing can mean so much to someone.
As the woman from my doctor's office was leaving she walked by me and said, "I can't wait to get home and tell my husband how wonderful a person I met."
Imagine if my most minuscule gesture could be so meaningful, the great impact you will make if you choose to!
I wish you and yours a Healthy and Happy Thanksgiving Day!
Dave Kanegis is a Certified Professional Coach.
Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org