Expressing appreciation to others when receiving kindness, gifts, help, favors, or other types of generosity builds and sustains relationships.
I'm grateful for my education. And so much so, I felt the need to do something for someone beside myself. I’m a firm believer in the idea to share when you’ve earned it by collaborating with others. I felt drawn to do something much bigger than myself. The Peace Corps seemed like the right step to express my gratitude to others.
Following my focus on food, I served as a nutritionist for over two years in the rural Guatemalan highlands at a time when this country--about the size of Ohio, neared the conclusion of its 30-year civil war. I was the only American woman in a remote, deep, rural setting six hours from the nation’s capital, Guatemala City and two hours from a paved highway. I biked many miles every day to teach health and hygiene to rural women and children in their homes, health centers and schools. I taught toothbrush making, and nutrition including the value of iron rich foods, the importance of vitamin A to prevent night blindness and the power of combining rice and beans.
The Guatemalans were generous and often welcomed me into their humble adobe, brick homes to enjoy sweet bread and even sweeter coffee, a mid-morning and afternoon snack tradition to keep one’s energy high for manual work in the fields. Carbohydrates, such as rice, black beans and tamales (steamed corn dough), were the primary foods eaten at morning, noon and night. Animal protein, consumed once a week and usually on Sunday, consisted of either beef stew meat or fried chicken. One day while walking home, one of the women with whom I had taught on several occasions called to me from the hill of corn where she was hoeing weeds and invited me to lunch.
Despite limited food resources, Guatemalan etiquette dictated I accept the invitation because someone wanted to share something. I expected beans and a tamale for lunch with this woman and her family. Little did I know or understand at that time that entertaining the gringa, a U.S. citizen, was the equivalent of hosting a celebrity in one’s home. She said to me, “We will have chicken for lunch.” While I felt sad she would be stretching her family of five’s food resources to me, chicken sounded good to me because I was always hungry while living there. She presented me with a live chicken for harvesting. While I had acquired chicken harvesting skills as a child and poised to help her, I knew it would involve eating chicken tripe (baked intestines) as well as the grand prize of a chicken drumstick. Not the most ideal situation by food safety and preparation standards; however, it was more important to honor and respect the woman, her family and cultural expectations.
As is so often the case, I learned more about myself than I did about the people I was serving. I began to appreciate in a new and deeper way, the value of a human life. While living there felt like another time in history, shared values of taking care of one’s self and family remained the same. I also learned that even with all the seemingly overwhelming problems and worries we face...it is possible to find a solution. (Hay solución para todo). The people in Guatemala taught me how truly humbling it is to live in a democracy, and to have the range of choices we enjoy every day.
“Everyone wants to share in some way, no matter how big or small. Embrace it. Welcome the camaraderie it offers.”
Think about the times when you've been the recipient of someone's gratitude. Then, consider when you've offered your gratitude to another individual. These two similar situations may feel different. In either case, you're growing then and there.
Give gratitude without expecting anything in return. A moment of kindness helps others.
When you have a good, bad or indifferent day, give thanks. Reflect one thing you learned today. Doing so may help you move forward with your career.
Tell and show people how much you appreciate them, their efforts and beyond.
Find a way to congratulate someone for a job well done.
Give people their own sunshine. Let them grow. Skip stifling people’s ambitions. Offer genuine support.
Think about your memories from work in the food industry.
What specifically made it memorable?
What were you thankful for at that job?
How might the gratitude and memories from that food job apply to your hopes for the future?
Gratitude helps you GROW!
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