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Gratitude and Hope

Written by: Ralph Twombly
Published: December 13th, 2024

My title feels a little naive in a world filled with what appears to be nothing but bad news. So, if you are looking for something different, maybe something uplifting at the beginning of the holiday hustle and bustle, you have arrived at the right place. But first, let me give you the motivation to write this article. A few things:

  • In this year (2023), I routinely asked people in our workshops if they felt the world was a safer place than when they were younger. Overwhelmingly, I heard that people felt the world was less safe.
  • It also occurred to me that people are sometimes more frightened and deeply cautious. Their outlook has turned from optimism or, at best, realism to pessimism. Most likely the pandemic, politics and school shootings haven’t helped. Smiles are less frequent, and handshakes (at most) have replaced hugs. Studies have shown a connection between health and outlook. Human connection fuels our health and adds years to our lives.
  • We know that cynicism is at an all-time high. You don’t need to take my word for this one, you simply need to listen to the ever-increasing polarization of our media sources. 

Because we see things through our own lens much of the time, I don’t feel the pull like others seem to, and it worries me on two fronts. Am I missing something that I should know and what is the overall health effect of worry and fear?

So, I did some research. Kind of what I do when it seems like I’m the one not getting the message. I found some interesting stuff.

  • Outside of a war zone only six people perished each year since 9/11 due to domestic or foreign terrorism. Which is vastly smaller than the number of people who died in bathtub drownings. 
  • In fact, your odds of being struck by lightning is significantly higher (1 in 9,800,000) than being involved in an American terrorist attack (1 in 39,000,000).
  • Cancer claims 1 in 545 of us each year. That has improved over the last decade. 
  • 200 people die annually from running into deer and home appliances claim 200 more.
  • Drug overdoes in 2021 account for 102,000 people. Double the number just a few years ago.
  • Car accidents accounted for 46,000.

Those facts may not have eased your concerns completely. We are still dealing with global warming, pollution, and natural disasters crazy weather and too many people not getting the help they need with their mental health and living arrangements.

Now the good news:

  • The average age that people died in 1900 was 47 years. In 2021 it was 76. There are some disagreements on whether we live healthier lives. 
  • Child mortality rates have gone from 40% in 1900 to 2.3% in 2020.

Here is the point. Sometimes the things we worry most about make us sick and miserable. Are we controlling what we can to keep ourselves and those we love safe? Have we fallen down the cynicism hole never to be found again?

Based on our feedback from people we serve, here is the one thing we can agree on - we want to feel better, safer, and less cynical. And we know that we need to start with ourselves. People are tired of bad politics, the constant barrage of bad news and the loss of hope.

To this end, here are a few things to think about as the 2023 holiday season ends and we launch into 2024. 

  • We see people hungry to learn and live life more courageously every day. Yes, every single day. What they need is someone to believe in them. Learn something important about the people in your lives every day.
  • Volunteering for something you feel is worthwhile. Find a cause you believe in and give your time, energy, and money if you can. It is proven that we enhance our lives and health when we help others.
  • Believe in the goodness of people. Yes, you may be disappointed from time to time and people can let you down. We may be on the verge of a collapse in civility through cynicism. Practice patience and remember that everyone is an individual with their own little quirks and, more importantly, their amazing potential and unique skills. Let people know that you see their greatness.
  • Smile more. Try it. You will find others smiling back.
  • Finally, in this season of holiday cheer, let someone know that you love them. Apologize to someone who you have disappointed and lift someone up by letting them know that you see them. You really SEE them and that you are there when they need a friend.

The world is going to endure and all we have is each other. Our positive and encouraging thinking make it a better place for our children and grandchildren. 

Like many of your lives, my life has been a journey from humble beginnings, blessed by people who care enough about me to pick me up when I stumble, forgive me when I am ridiculous, and still carry me on their shoulders, despite my quirks. This is the time of year that I remember those people who had better things to do with their lives yet selflessly placed me first. Maybe the final word for me is to count my blessings and “be” one of those people. I encourage you (my fellow travelers) to do the same. 

Happy Holidays to you all!

Ralph Twombly

Ralph Twombly

In the 20 years since starting Priority Learning, Ralph has facilitated countless learning experiences and has conducted training for thousands of managers and leaders. With over 30 years of leadership development and organizational development background and work, Ralph continues to build relationships with client companies all over the U.S.