A Sense of Gratitude

by Marc Herstand, MSW, CISW

Marc Herstand

“Count your blessings”.  So said Rabbi Ron Shapiro to me when I met with him after losing my job which supported our family.  I was very discouraged as we had just bought a house and I did not know how we were going to manage financially.   His wise words gave me perspective and have stayed with me all these years.

As social workers we certainly have seen the worst that life has to offer.  Our clients have experienced child and sexual abuse, neglect, domestic violence, rape, homelessness, poverty, racism, sexism and serious and disabling health and mental health problems.  We ourselves may have experienced some of these same issues in our personal lives and/or the lives of our families and friends.  Life can seem really hard and so unfair at times.

The social ills in our communities, state and nation are visible for all to see.  Poverty, homelessness, unemployment, hate crimes, massive income inequality, racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, gun violence… the list goes on and on. For many of us the state of national and state leadership may bring dismay, despair and outrage.  Those of us who have been social workers and living on this earth for a while may wonder what we have accomplished.

And yet I am sure each of us can find things to feel grateful for.  Despite the many challenges faced by our clients, there are clients who make remarkable progress and we may feel grateful that we have an opportunity to touch a life at our work.  It is said that if she or he saves one life; it is as if she saves the entire world.  On a macro level  our country and the world is overall, a much better place than it was 40-50 years ago for so many of its residents.

On a personal level, we may feel a sense of gratitude for our friends, spouses, children, other family members, our religious communities, our neighbors, our city, state and country.  We may feel grateful for our health, our hobbies or other interests. 

For me I feel an enormous sense of gratitude that each day at NASW WI is an opportunity to promote our profession, promote positive public policy or mentor an intern.  I also feel gratitude for my health today, my family, my friends, my choir, my heritage and Temple.

The sense of gratitude is important because it can lead to calm, peace and happiness in approaching life’s challenges and give us the strength to help others in our family and professional life feel the same sense of calm, peace and happiness.

Developing and retaining a sense of gratitude is easier said than done but it is something that can be nurtured.  Particularly in this holiday season, whether you are celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Diwali, Kwanza or another holiday, let’s all take time to count our blessings and consider what we are grateful for in our lives.