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Across the Globe, Gratitude and Giving Go Hand in Hand

As the CEO of Food for the Hungry, I have been fortunate to travel to some of the world’s hardest places on a quest to end poverty. The scenes I have encountered when welcomed into the homes of families on the other side of the world are quite different than my daily life in Phoenix. But whether I am in Kenya or Arizona, I have seen the importance of gratitude, cultivating community with friends and family, and finding ways to help others. They serve as a grounding point—no matter what’s happening in society around me.

With so many issues pulling people apart nowadays (or even something as simple as video games, for my kids), we must make an even bigger effort to connect. One of the core values of FH’s Heartbeat is that our work is relational. That means we pursue reconciled relationships of grace with those with whom we partner and serve. In other words, that means getting to know and interact with the people around us. I’m incredibly grateful for my close circle of friends who live on my neighborhood street, and the time we’ve invested in each other over the years.

Even when it’s not Christmas season, one way I connect with my kids is by asking them three questions daily:

  1. What is the best thing that happened today?
  2. What is the worst thing that happened today?
  3. And what are you most thankful for?

Peruvian mother holds the hands of her two boys.

Peruvian mother holds the hands of her two boys.

Gratitude is critical. It shifts your focus to what you are blessed with and enhances your faith. In fact, research has shown that gratitude actually increases your happiness and uniquely predicts satisfaction with life. Here in the United States, we have so much to be thankful for. Clean drinkable water that flows freely from the tap. The peace of mind that comes from knowing our family will go to bed with full bellies. A safe home. Free primary education. Once, when I was in northern Kenya, and a friend got stung in the heel by a scorpion, I realized how critical access to healthcare was—the nearest doctor was six hours away by car. In reality, so many of the privileges we take for granted stand in stark contrast to the dire circumstances in the places where FH works.

Err on the side of generosity

Yet, while it would be easy to feel guilty for all that we have while others do not, there’s no reason to. Instead, I think of a friend who advised to always “err on the side of generosity” – when tipping at a restaurant or determining how much to give to a charity, or even sponsor another child.

 

Other recommended articles:

Meet Mike B. Meyers: Q&A with Food for the Hungry’s New CEO

Giving Rhythms and the Spirit of Generosity

3 Tips for Conscious Christmas Shopping

 

It’s that spirit of giving that I try to instill in my three children. I tell them we should think as global citizens and recognize our responsibility to think outside of ourselves. Whether it’s traveling internationally to engage with other cultures, or serving the homeless in our own backyard, we must serve others who aren’t as fortunate as we are.

On Christmas, we remember to be thankful for the ultimate gift and act of love: God incarnate, who sent his son Jesus Christ in a humble manger to save the world and make us righteous. This holiday season, let’s take the opportunity to give thanks for God’s gift to mankind, err on the side of generosity, and embrace the giving spirit by looking for ways to serve others.

Merry Christmas!

Peruvian mother holds the hands of her two boys.