“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” President John F. Kennedy.
There is a cacophony of words during this season. No one escapes sincere as well as commercial expression of joy, belief, and hearty (or forced) glad tidings. Appeals for funds to support good works and causes crowd our in-boxes, mailboxes and social media. Predictions and prognostications increase. The upcoming Presidential election year metastasizes political oratory beyond boundaries of time and space, crowding our consciousness as well as the electronic “airwaves”.
Adding to the noise, religious, civic and humanitarian leaders pen words of gratitude to amplify the best of human nature. They call upon us to rejoice in what we have and to rekindle the sparks of compassion, generosity and care. They reinforce the belief that gratitude creates appreciation for today and is the foundation of the vision and hope of tomorrow.
And that is where gratitude as a sentiment falls short of its promise. Today and tomorrow are linked, not by words, but by deeds. In the midst of this symphony of sounds and words, there is a constant, us. Our lives. Our words. Our actions.
Gratitude and appreciation, demonstrated by how we live, makes it impossible to vilify or discriminate against immigrant and outsiders. Appreciation for our blessings doesn’t extend to pious words that ignore the carnage wreaked by non-law abiding citizens (or others) with guns. Thankfulness doesn’t include failure to act to increase gun safety. Silent gratitude kills women who rely upon clinics for healthcare that are under siege, literally and figuratively. Receiving the richness of life that is not extended to working productively to increase opportunity and education for others ignores the fact that no one who achieves success does it without the help of others, including our government. “Thank you for your service” are hollow words indeed if jobs, services and a dignified civilian life are impossible to acquire.
To live by actions, not by words, elevates our gratitude. Allowing us to be more human more connected, impactful and empowered in the world. When we turn the nice words of the season into action, we inspire each day with purpose, making it a demonstration of our values. Actions drown out the cacophony of words, leaving in their place the deeds by which you and others will experience the true impact of gratitude. This season, speak louder than words.
Susan D. Cocco is Chair of the Ridgefield Democratic Town Committee, which supplies this column.