Thanksgiving Blessings


Today is about more than eating turkey and splurging on our favorite bites.  

It is a day to spend time with loved ones, reminiscence, and be grateful.

Several years ago I was a member of the Fox Talkz Chapter of Toastmasters International in Los Angeles, CA.  I recently discovered one of my required speeches in an old computer file, and I would like to share my presentation with you on this special holiday.

Be Grateful, Be Stress-Free… Be Happy!!

Written and Presented by Robin Luthi, BA, NASM-CPT

I would like to begin my speech this morning with a few short True and False questions… In the essence of time, please keep your answers to yourself, but definitely do not lose sight of them.

___ I would be happier if I made more money, found the perfect mate, lost 10 pounds or moved to a new house.

___ Happiness is genetic. You can’t change how happy you are any more than you can change how tall you are.

___ Success brings happiness.

 Answers:  False, False and False!

Happiness is not a goal. It is a process. In most cases, we are in control of our own happiness.  It is happiness that brings success – not the other way around!

I would like to continue my speech with a quote from Sheryl Crow’s, past hit song “Soak Up The Sun”:  It’s not having what you want, it’s wanting what you’ve got. Through our rapidly expanding, technologically focused society, there will always be objects that we all desire; but, what is truly important is to be happy and grateful for all that we already have and learn to effectively deal with the stress that we are confronted with and put this stress in perspective.

Throughout the last several months, I have been positively influenced by three truly inspirational characters: (1) a young gentleman who is the President for the Lakeshore Toastmasters club in Grand Haven, Michigan; (2) a fellow USC alumnus: and (3) an elderly women who I encountered at my Grandmother’s retirement facility.

A few months ago I received the May 2008 issue of the Toastmaster Magazine, which featured a truly inspirational story for us all. Some of you may have previously read the article, Humor is the Key, about a young adult named Andy Ransom and his misfortune as a young boy and how he learned to deal with and eventually overcome it. Andy, a 29 year old paraplegic, was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of cancer in his inner ear at the young age of six. As a result, he was required to receive large doses of chemotherapy and radiation, which eventually led this young boy to be paralyzed from the neck down. Now, I (and I would expect many others to concur) would experience intense feelings of discouragement and remorse; however, Andy viewed his hardships differently, as he reasoned, “You can’t focus on the past; you can only focus on the future.”  Andy has brought a tremendous amount of light to this terribly unfortunate occurrence; for example, he often participates in golf-kart races with his wheelchair! Another direct quote from this young inspirational role model is “Things may seem bad, but you can always make them better. All you have to do is walk down a hospital hallway and see how much worse things can be. You are your own limitations, so turn those limitations into positive experiences.” And, Andy did just that! In 2005 he became a member of Toastmasters, and is now President for the Lakeshore Toastmaster chapter in Grand Haven, Michigan. He was instantly able to forget about his disabilities, and easily add humor to all of his speeches, as he states “When I joined Toastmasters and began speaking and making people laugh, I found that it made me feel really good inside.” We all face different mishaps at some point in our lives – some minor and others major, as in Andy’s case – therefore, we must see beyond these challenges and not only become aware that things can always be worse, but also change these unfortunate occurrences into positive experiences, and even learning opportunities. We must be grateful for all of these experiences that we still, and will always, share with those around us.

Recently I learned about a tragic incident that happened to a fellow USC alumnus named Molly, who was beginning a memorable trip to Africa with her husband. At the beginning of their trip, the couple encountered a horrific plane crash, which brought massive injuries to Molly, resulting in paralysis from the waist-down. I do not personally know this couple; however, after reading several of Molly’s positive, up-lifting journal entries as well as viewing pictures of her glowing smile during the slow recovery process was very inspirational. Molly had envisioned a glorious African vacation with her husband just prior to starting a family, and instead, was faced with a very severe, life-changing event; however, she did not allow it to drastically bring her spirits down. She kept with the mentality that things can always be worse, and first and foremost, be grateful with all that she does still have… for example, a loving family, dear friends, and a wonderful pet cat!

My 96 year old grandmother lives in an assisted living home in the South Bay. Last month, my mom and I were visiting her and I was introduced to another female resident… This lady, named Georgia, is only in her early 60s and has recently suffered a massive stroke, leaving her blind in both eyes! After speaking with Georgia for several minutes, she did not appear to be bothered by her sudden loss of sight, one bit! She is such a kind, sweet lady and she strongly believes that it is her strong religious faith that has helped her cope with her recent traumatic hardships.  After speaking with Georgia’s daughter, I was informed that the ongoing stress Georgia was consistently faced with in her previous job is thought to be a contributing factor to her stroke. In today’s workplace, there are a large number of people who are affected by stress; and, especially excessive amounts of stress can negatively affect a person’s health… A new study in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that workers who indicated that they experienced high levels of job stress also showed increased levels of an inflammatory marker linked to heart disease (WebMD Health News; Sept. 23, 2005). The Health section in the September 8th issue of the L.A. Times sites three ways to reduce stress: (1) Every morning when you wake up, think of someone or something that you have a deep and abiding appreciation for: a former teacher or coach, a neighbor, a parent or friend; (2) Do something for someone else. Call a friend or send him/her an email. Give a toy to charity; and (3) Curb your negative self-talk. When thinking of an upcoming event, don’t focus on the pain or hassles. Focus on the possibilities, and what’s good and special about the event (also, try to read Rhonda Byrne’s “The Secret”!). Other stress-relieving tactics include regular exercise as well as trying to avoid committing yourself to more obligations than you can physically handle and thus try to live a relatively simple lifestyle, while also feeling self-filled and grateful for all that you have accomplished.

I hope that these three stories have reminded all of you that no matter how sad, discouraged or frustrated each you may become at times, things can always be worst. We all will continue to be confronted with stress, which may affect our daily lives; but, we must learn about healthy strategies of managing it. There will always be new and better technology or automobiles or homes that we all want; however, first and foremost, it is important to be grateful for all that we do have – both big and small! And, according to this week’s L.A. Times article, “C’mon, get happy!”

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