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From the Director


As the pumpkin spice items move to the clearance shelf and Halloween decorations are put away, the temptation is to quickly bring out the peppermint, red bows and twinkling lights of the Holidays.  But what about Thanksgiving? Somehow we’ve started to race over November’s little speedbump of turkey and dressing on our way to Season’s Greetings. This year, I encourage all of us to soak in the flavor of Thanksgiving and savor the season that calls us to gratitude.  Gratitude conditions the heart and fuels us to act with kindness.

While there may be many hard and difficult challenges in our lives, but there is still much to be thankful for.  Sharing your gratitude with people around you is worth the time it takes. At the Thanksgiving Dinner table, consider sharing at least one thing over the past year for which you are thankful and really listen to what others share.  Offer “what you are most grateful for” in posts, texts, etc… Make a list or just start /end the day thinking about …. what/who has made a difference in my life?  With many officers ending their terms this semester, could you reach out to thank those who played the roles?  If you served as a leader, who might you thank who gave you support? Being intentional to thank people not only makes others feel valued and appreciated, it is a nourishing experience for your own spirit.

The world is a tough place.  Tragedy, hate, dishonor, loss, conflict, oppression and incivility are thieves of peace.   I encourage all of us to pour into one another.  Approach people with differing views with respect to really hear them.  Think before we speak/act. Our words/ actions cannot be easily taken back.  Pause an extra beat before we post things that shine a negative light on others and share our critical comments with the world.  Something intended to be a funny lighthearted moment may hit like another person like a brick or come around to bite us living a lifetime on web.  When we start with gratitude, and respect for others, we show up with eyes of kindness, empathy and compassion.   Each of these are like the oil within the life’s machinery.  It functions to lessen the friction and constant grind so we can all keep moving forward without breaking under the pressure.

It costs us very little to be kind to the people around us.   Kindness gives us a spirit of fellowship and connection which builds respect and trust.  The opposite is true when it is missing.  A chapter that has lost its ability to show kindness will lose its sense of brotherhood or sisterhood.  Empathy teaches us to feel what it must be like to walk in another person’s shoes. Compassion is kindness and empathy on a mission.  Compassion helps us to do something to make someone else’s experience better without expecting anything in return.

Developing empathy and compassion is something we grow like a muscle we intentionally work out.  Where can you show gratitude, offer kindness and build respect for others in the world? Take a moment right now to think about all that is good in your life and out of the overflow of that, what can you do to make the lives of those around you better?

This November, I am full of gratitude for each of you doing the work everyday supporting our students,  our community and one another.

Happy Thanksgiving Y’all and Go Vols!