In this season of Thanksgiving, faith leaders encourage people to be thankful to God for blessings that have been given. Scientists and researchers say that having a spirit of gratitude can offer benefits, like making a person healthier and happier.
Travis Smith is the executive director, and a counselor specializing in grief and loss, at Blue Ridge Hope, a nonprofit counseling service located in Rutherfordton. He says gratitude plays an important role in being happy.
“When people are grateful, when people are thankful, they are happier,” Smith said. “Thinking about the things you are grateful for, can divert your attention from things that you may be sad about.”
Journaling about what you are thankful for can be helpful.
“Research shows that one way to increase happiness is to write down these things on a daily basis,” Smith said. “For people who are open to journaling, I do encourage that.”
After nearly two years of living through the COVID-19 pandemic, Thanksgiving will be different for many families.
“With covid, and the amount of death and sickness we have seen, just in this county, it is disheartening. Many people have lost family members and friends,” Smith said. “I would suggest to these folks, first of all acknowledge their grief. It is very legitimate. And I would at this time, encourage them to do something to honor the memory of their loved one. That is a wonderful way to show your thankfulness for that person for the time they were in your life.”
The holiday season, from Thanksgiving through Christmas, can be a time when people experience mixed feelings. Besides the joy that can come with family gatherings and celebrations of faith, Smith said there are feelings of nostalgia and reminders of those no longer here, or of relationships that are no longer what they once were.
Smith says Thanksgiving is a good time to think about people in your life, that you are truly grateful for.
“Think of these people, and consider sending them a note, writing them a letter, or sending a quick email,” Smith said. “Just let them know that you are grateful for their friendship, that you value that relationship.”
Gratitude, in general, can open the door to more and better relationships. According to researchers, being appreciative goes along with making new friends. Thanking people makes others more likely to see you as friendly, and want to be your friend.
Gratitude can also help improve physical health. Studies suggest that grateful people report feeling healthier, with fewer aches and pains. Grateful people are also more likely to take an active role in being healthy, exercising more and fostering other healthy habits.
Studies suggest that when people actively think about what they are thankful for before bed, they will have a better night’s sleep.
Gratitude also improves self-esteem, and can help reduce emotions that are toxic like frustration and resentment.
Being thankful helps reduce stress, and many agree can simply help people be happier.
Smith suggests focusing on the positive people who are in your life, and be grateful.
“I am thankful for my family, my wife and my children,” Smith added. “And I am thankful that I have employment....doing a job that I love, which is helping other people.”
When Kenneth Dotson of Western North Carolina first met his future wife, Michelle, the last thing he had on his mind was the difference in their skin tones.
Michelle though, whose parents were also in an interracial marriage, knew what challenges could be expected. Her African American mother and half Puerto Rican, half Jewish father had faced their own share of trials.
“Racial issues were everywhere,” Michelle said. “My father was advised at times that he shouldn’t introduce my mother as his wife when they were out in public.”
Accustomed to facing discrimination, Michelle wasn’t worried about herself, but instead the backlash her husband might face.
“I was called names in school, told that my parents would go to hell for being two different races, I was used to this kind of treatment,” Michelle said. “I was the first person in Kenneth’s family that wasn’t white, and he has generations of family that was local to the city we lived in.”
Knowing the town in which he’d been raised, Kenneth was concerned about how his new wife would be treated.
“I knew the community here, and I’d heard their comments of displeasure about Black people,” Kenneth said. “I knew there were going to be eyes on us, and looks of disapproval when we went out.”
According to the Pew Research Center, one in five new marriages is now interracial. While statistics suggest that interracial marriages in America have gained greater acceptance, not all couples have that experience. Still, they have found ways to cope.
Shared religious faith along with a community of fellow believers have been invaluable in navigating the cultural complexities.
Even though some of Kenneth’s own relatives had negative views of other races, his parents raised him differently.
“My parents believed the principles found in the Bible, that no one race was superior to another. They instilled that in me,” he said.
Similarly, Michelle related that she and her family found great comfort in their local congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
“We were all accepted because we were all friends of Jehovah. My family could feel safe, secure, and comfortable in the congregation,” she said.
Now 11 years into their marriage, Kenneth and Michelle, of Forest City, are working hard to raise their children with the same ideals. Michelle shared the conversation she often has with Liliana, her 3-year-old daughter: “We’re all different, but God made us all, and aren’t we all beautiful?”
More information on the activities of Jehovah’s Witnesses, including resources for happy family life, can be found on their official website, www.jw.org.
SPINDALE — A $16,000 grant from the Gene Haas Foundation will help pay tuition and purchase supplies for Isothermal machining students this year and next. The Machining Technologies program at Isothermal trains students for lucrative careers in manufacturing. Many students secure employment in the field with nearby employers as soon as they graduate.
The grant is available to assist currently enrolled students or new students. When combined with other forms of financial aid, the students who benefit from this generous grant will have little or no cost to attend Isothermal.
“We are so pleased to be here to congratulate Isothermal Community College and to celebrate their success,” said Lindsay Cline, director of Education and Events at Haas. “Isothermal’s manufacturing technology program is a true leader in the field of machining education, with an impressive track record in both recruiting and job placement. We are proud to support Isothermal and the talented students they are training to become leaders in America’s manufacturing workforce.”
Cline was joined for the check presentation ceremony by current ICC machining students, each one a recipient of last year’s Haas funding; Kip Asmuth, a Haas sales engineer; machining instructor Jeff Waters; grant writer Sarah Morse; and Dr. Greg Thomas, vice president of Academic and Student Affairs.
Since 2015, the Haas Foundation has provided $102,500 to support approximately 70 students in the Isothermal program.
The Gene Haas Foundation was founded in 1999. Growing up with a strong social conscience instilled by his family, Haas initially formed the foundation to fund the needs of the local community and other deserving charities. In 1983, Haas founded Haas Automation, Inc., America’s leading builder of CNC machine tools. Most of the machines in the Isothermal shop are built by Haas. Haas is a division of the Phillips Corporation and operates the Haas Formula One Race Team.Registration for Spring 2022 is open now. Call Machining Technologies instructor Jeff Waters at 828-395-1409 or email him at email@example.com for details.