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The Practice of Gratitude and Ronald McDonald House Charities

The past three years, I have had the great privilege of working with Ronald McDonald House Charities as a speaker at their international and national conferences.

I was pretty overwhelmed with gratitude at the end of this year’s conference. First, for the organization itself, which is a stand out to me. Every year, in speaking with the leaders and incredible front line workers of this organization, I am struck by the important work they’re doing on a day to day basis: providing comfort, care, and necessary support to families whose children are critically ill.

After wrapping my talks this year, I felt waves of gratitude for the following things beyond RMHC, almost simultaneously:

  • A cherished friend’s child who was critically ill at birth is now thriving. (I get to meet him next week!) This comes after a harrowing first three months of life that included long NICU stays at Lurie’s Children’s Hospital and then Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania (way to go, little big man Lincoln!). You can see the journey of this beautiful family here.
  • Our own children, whom we enjoy so much and whose health we try our very best not to take for granted; they are thriving, browned and happy from summer time family camping trips and playing about outdoors.
  • The chance to work with amazing organizations (in this case, Kellogg School of Management and RMHC). These organizations trust me again and again to discuss important issues with the people they employ or serve.
  • My work in general–which allows me to learn continually and be inspired by those I work with and the topics I study. A great example of this: in doing research for one of my talks this year, I came across the story of Doug Dietz—Principal Designer at GE who transformed the experience of the MRI for children. His commitment to excellence and demonstration of outstanding empathy is something that will long remain with me. See it here.
  • And finally, I felt gratitude for the long life of my grandmother, Virginia Becker, who passed away earlier this month. Grandma was a testament to the power of dauntless community service—supporting, most notably, the local hospital in Twin Falls, Idaho for years upon years with her volunteer work after she left the rigors of a farming life. She was always quick with a smile and a joke (usually dirty) to brighten the lives of patients and their families. Grandma—you will be missed. May we all live up to your tireless example of service.

In short, life is good and I am grateful for it. Research has proven again and again how a focus on gratitude and on what’s going right in our lives and work is transformative (for just one example of this research, see Shawn Anchor’s short and highly readable 2012 piece on “Positive Intelligence” from HBR here).

So, from my work, I know gratitude is important, but this time I just felt it. And it was a great way to wrap the summer.