Happy Thanks-Giving!

During the holiday week of Thanksgiving, I hear greetings of “Happy Thanksgiving” or receive notes or e-mails wishing me those greetings every year. It is always so heartwarming to receive these greetings from friends, family, the cashier at the grocery store, or a Starbuck’s employee at the drive through window.

But I wonder how many of us think about the two parts of the word, thanksgiving? Isn’t it amazing we often focus on thanks, but not on giving? I have heard so many people talk about how they asked everyone to come to the table and say what they are thankful for this year. This is a wonderful idea that I share with friends, family, and the Bender employees.

But what do we do to celebrate the giving part of the holiday? It is equally important to give as it is to be thankful. For example, how can we celebrate the holiday without remembering others who gave through the years, including our parents, grandparents, or friends who sacrificed their time, devotion, or encouragement of resources to get us where we are today? There are others to remember, the homeless, veterans, food banks, and first responders.

During COVID, remember how important the first responders were to us all? Heroes!! We were cheering and shouting and heralding them for their countless sacrifices, including putting their life on the line for all of us. Have you considered giving back to the healthcare workers, EMTs, fireman or countless other types of first responders? There are ways to give back. You can go to the fire department in your neighborhood, like here in Moon Township or to the First Responders Institute, a national organization.

World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that in the period between January 2020 to May 2021, COVID-19 caused 80,000 to 180,000 deaths of healthcare workers; imagine the horrific number it is today! They gave to us; we should give to them. Even a note from you to a nurse or doctor or a box of goodies for a fireman; they really do love donuts!

Giving can also be your personal time, your presence, visiting a friend or an elderly neighbor, writing a note of appreciation, taking dinner to someone alone, a neighbor, or friend. One very special way of giving is to invite someone to your home for your Thanksgiving celebration.

Another way to give, even if it is $5.00, to the Bender Leadership Academy. I am so proud of the Bender Leadership Academy, the prestigious board directors, Scott Hammerstrom, our manager of programs and partnerships and his staff, the teachers, our employer partners, and most importantly the great students with disabilities! We have an emphasis on students with mental health disabilities with our great campaign, #NotAshamed. We also have the Slaughter Stigma Pledge named after my good friend Karin Slaughter, author and executive producer of the television smash hit, Will Trent!

Did you know that students with disabilities are the more likely bullied than students without disabilities? At The Bender Leadership Academy, we know that bullying behavior and suicide-related behavior are closely related. This means youth who report any involvement with bullying behavior are more likely to report high levels of suicide-related behavior than youth who do not report any involvement with bullying behavior.

Please take time to go to visit the Bender Leadership Academy website and take the Slaughter Stigma pledge and make a video for the #NotAshamed campaign; directions are on the site. Just doing that over the Thanksgiving holiday is giving. Make giving part of the time you give thanks. It just makes you a better person.

I wish you all a Happy Thanks-Giving!