As I sit at our Thanksgiving dinner table, enjoying the company of our family and friends, I take a moment to reflect on all of the things that I am thankful for. I am thankful for my family that brings so much love and joy to my life. I am thankful for my friends and supporters that help us co-create a community of shared beliefs. I am thankful to be a Canadian, living in a country that values peace and understanding. I am thankful to be an Edmontonian, living in a city that provides wonderful opportunities to raise a family and contribute to society in a meaningful way.
The tradition of expressing our gratitude in a thanksgiving dinner or ceremony is common among almost all religions and cultures around the world, especially after harvest. In North America, the Thanksgiving holiday is rooted in English traditions as a way of giving thanks for the blessings of the harvest.
But many Edmontonians unfortunately do not get to celebrate this holiday by feasting on turkey. Each month, over 20,000 people in Edmonton receive food hampers from Edmonton’s Food Bank. The Food Bank also distributes food to more than 400,000 meals through more than 230 agencies, churches and food depots. Unfortunately, about 40 percent of people served are children under 18 years old. These numbers reached a record high in 2016 and continue to climb in 2017.
Supporting those in need is a calling for some. That is why I am running for public office; to serve my constituents and fellow citizens in need. But it is also a mutual social responsibility. The challenges we face as a city, province and country we cannot face alone. Only with the mutual assistance and collaboration of residents, businesses, and government can we co-create a society that gives equal opportunities for everyone to be healthy and happy.
Ultimately, that is what we all want in life: health and happiness. But what creates happiness?
According to the Harvard Grant Study, a 75 year study on healthy aging and happiness, what determines happiness is love and community, especially warm relationships with our parents and family. In fact, even financial success is determined by these “warm relationships”.
According to a new report from the Edmonton Community Foundation, nearly one-fifth of Edmontonians feel socially isolated from their community. Feelings of isolation can be a cause for loneliness and depression in many people.
However, many studies also show that volunteering or contributing our time to causes that are important to us increases our sense of bonding to others, finding meaning in life and ultimately, in creating happiness. Therefore, I encourage every Edmontonian to reflect on what causes are important to them and find ways to get involved. Contact Volunteer Edmonton or Volunteer Alberta to learn more about how you can get involved.
I am grateful that there are opportunities for me to be involved in serving others. For that creates so much meaning and happiness in my life. I want to encourage and inspire others to do the same. In addition to being involved, simply expressing gratitude for the blessings that we do have also nurtures happiness. If you visit any mental health therapist and tell them that you are depressed, one of the first things they will do is ask you to write in a gratitude journal. In other words, write what you are grateful for each and every day. That trains your mind to build positive habits.
So, what are you grateful for?