My favorite American holiday has always been Thanksgiving, which is about remembering just how full my glass really is. It is so easy to take my access to good things for granted, yet this day reminds me that I am the exception and that so many make do with so little.
On our last trip to Nepal I was struck once again by how gratitude is visible in the Nepali culture. It's not just that the people there tend to be polite and considerate (which they are), but that a sense of thankfulness pervades the air. Especially in our project area, Okhaldhunga, we return home from each visit with a sense of appreciation. The villagers there are very thankful for the classrooms we have built and the teachers we have trained, but they are also sincerely appreciative that we have chosen to be a part of their world.
This gratefulness is displayed through a smile, a gesture, a look in the eye. Their sincerity is palpable. And it seems that this is no big deal to them, just the way they see the world. I realize that I leave Nepal having received much more from these folks than I have given them.
The scale of need in Nepal is hard to overstate. As if difficult terrain, a fragile government and lack of infrastructure were not enough, this year has brought earthquakes and ongoing political gridlock that has made life there even more challenging. How can I make sense of their gratitude other than by being more thankful myself? Because when I see a direct connection between their gratitude and my own life, I am enriched and more purposeful. That's the true gift.
As we join together for the annual celebration of abundance, family and community, I will be thinking of my own good fortune, to be sure. I will also be reflecting on how I've learned about a generosity of spirit from people living a much simpler life far away. May their gift motivate me, and all of us, to a greater commitment to serving others very day.
Dan Schwab is the PiSL Chairman of the Board, and a Leadership Educator and Coach. He will be spending Thanksgiving with his wife and good friends in Paradise (a lovely town in the foothills of California).