By Rep. Kristi Noem
On Veterans Day this year, I attended the activation ceremony for the 153rd Engineer Battalion of the South Dakota National Guard, as more than 150 soldiers from Huron and Parkston prepared to deploy to Kuwait for the next year. The work they will be doing is critical, but it’s still sobering to think of the empty chair that will be at the Thanksgiving table this year and the slightly more solemn Christmas to come soon after. The simple act of saying “thank you for you and your family’s service” hardly seems to capture the depth of gratitude a person feels.
I have always believed, and have always tried to teach my kids, that gratitude is more than a series of words. Gratitude is active; something you show; something you share with others. I know I’m not alone in this belief. It’s a value most South Dakotans share.
Just this month, a new federal report found that South Dakota ranks fourth in the nation for volunteering – one way we can perhaps measure gratitude in action. While around 25 percent of Americans volunteer, more than 1 in 3 South Dakotans do – and that number is actually on the rise even as volunteering becomes less popular nationwide. All in all, South Dakotans offered 23.26 million hours of service in 2015.
Of course, there are countless informal ways to practice active gratitude as well. Sit down and play cards with someone who might be having a tough time this holiday season. Drop dinner off at the home of a military family in your community. Be a little more patient with your children or a little more helpful to your parents.
They say it takes 21 days to make a habit, which is just about the same length as the holiday season. I encourage you to use this Thanksgiving as the start of a 21-day challenge to make active gratitude an even bigger part of your life. Just imagine how much could change if we all committed ourselves to showing our appreciation a little bit more.
On behalf of my entire family, I wish you a safe – and filling – Thanksgiving.