Expressing Thanks in Waco
“There is no other virtue like gratitude – none. I’ve never known a person who was grateful who was, at the same time, mean or small or bitter or hurtful. Not when you’re grateful.” – Fred Craddock
By Ashley Bean Thornton
Isn’t it wonderful that we have a national holiday for the purpose of giving thanks? I am thankful for the wisdom of our fore-parents for establishing this day. It strikes me as profoundly wise to set aside a time to intentionally focus on giving thanks. I wonder — if they hadn’t done it so long ago — would we have the good sense to do it now? (I feel the same way about free lending libraries…but I digress).
I imagine our great-great-great-great grandparents knew this intuitively, but today we have research evidence that gratitude is good for you. According to the Harvard Mental Health Letter (November, 2011), “Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.” The same article goes on to offer this definition of gratitude, “Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. In the process, people usually recognize that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside themselves. As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals — whether to other people, nature, or a higher power.”
Perhaps because thankfulness brings about that “connection to something larger than ourselves,” I find that there is a link between gratitude and generosity. When I take the time to count my blessings, the urge wells up to want to share those blessings with others. I imagine it is the same for you. With that in mind, I offer this short list of things for which I am thankful along with some ideas for sharing those blessings locally.
I am thankful for…
- My loving spouse ( I love you, Sweetie!) – Make a donation to or volunteer at the Family Abuse Center, a safe place for people whose spouses or others are anything but loving.
- Parents and family – Support AVANCE Waco, Talitha Koum, Starry Counseling, or Restoration Haven all places where parents can get support and learn important skills for nurturing their children.
- Grandparents – Make a donation to the Methodist Home to support the Grandparents as Parents Program, a part of their Family Outreach Services.
- Being warm when it’s cold. – Drop off a small electric space heater at the Area Agency on Aging ( 1514 South New Road) or Meals on Wheels (501 W Waco Dr) to help one of our elderly neighbors keep warm.
- Being able to count on three meals a day – Make a donation of cash or canned goods to Caritas (300 S 15th St) or Shepherd’s Heart (1401 North 34th), two of our local food pantries. Or give to World Hunger Relief, a place where people come from all over the world to learn about sustainable agriculture.
- A good hot shower – Make a donation to the Waco Salvation Army or the Mission Waco Meyer Center, places that provide showers and shelter for people who are homeless.
- A place to call home – Get involved with Waco Habitat for Humanity, the Waco Community Development Corporation (Waco CDC) or NeighborWorks Waco, all organizations that build up neighborhoods and help families get into good homes.
- A comfortable bed at night – Donate linens to Compassion Ministries a Waco ministry that provides transitional housing for homeless families.
- Tail-wagging, face-licking doggies — Give to or volunteer at the Humane Society of Central Texas or the Animal Birth Control Clinic.
- Great teachers I’ve had all along the way – Get in touch with the folks at the Waco ISD Education Foundation to learn about ways to support our local schools.
- A little beauty and laughter and fun – Write a check to Keep Waco Beautiful, or sponsor the Waco Civic Theater, or Support the Mission Waco Jubilee Theatre or Urban Expressions art program, or donate art supplies to Mosaic for use in their day program activities.
- Good, steady work – Volunteer at or donate to Christian Women’s Job Corps or Christian Men’s Job Corps, two organizations that help our neighbors learn the skills and practices they need to get and keep good jobs.
- Freedom to express my beliefs and pursue happiness my own way – Buy a baked goodie to support the Community Race Relations Coalition, or support the Veteran’s One-Stop, or get active in the political party of your choice.
- A good book and a lamp to read by – Join the Friends of the Waco-McLennan County Libraries. Make a donation to Caritas or EOAC, organizations that help Waco residents pay for utilities when funds are short.
- What-a-burger! – Buy a couple of Whataburger gift cards to keep in your wallet to give to people who ask for money.
And finally, I am so very grateful for you – the Act Locally Waco Community. You have made my life rich this year. As I scroll back through the Act Locally Waco Facebook log, and browse through the pictures with the Big Orange Frame, I am almost overwhelmed by all the beautiful faces of you, my extraordinary friends and neighbors of every size and age and description – giving of yourselves, enjoying yourselves, or just keeping on keeping on. I appreciate you. I thank you, and I’m thankful for you. God bless Waco!