By Lenora Rand, SmallGood Co-founder
In the middle of the world we’re living in, I have to admit, sometimes gratitude almost feels like a guilty pleasure. But I was feeling a lot of it on Friday.
One of the best parts of being in an ad agency is when a creative project you’ve been pouring your heart and soul, and most of your waking hours into for a while starts to come together and get “real.”
Friday was one of those days.
I went to the Gene Siskel Film Center in downtown Chicago with some of my clients and we screened a 30-second film my agency, SmallGood, has been working on. Part of a campaign we’ve been developing for the Robert R. McCormick Foundation’s new Communities Matching Fund — a fund created to support kids and families in Chicago that need it most — this film is going to be running in theaters in the area over the next several weeks.
So we were there to check it out, one last time…on the big screen…make sure it looked good, sounded good, felt good.
On all counts.
After we’d watched it a few times and everyone had given the thumbs up (we were, after all, in the Gene Siskel Film Center so a thumbs up or down was pretty much required…) there was this moment when I suddenly started getting a little bit teary-eyed. It could have been exhaustion, sure. My co-founder and co-director of the business, Mylene, and I, along with our strategy and creative team, have been working our tails off.
But I think what I was mostly feeling was… grateful.
Grateful for those clients, for their passion and commitment to their work, for their willingness to take a chance on us — and for the honor to partner with them.
Grateful for the opportunity to use my skills and abilities to work on something I really believe in — helping Chicago become a better place for us all to live.
Grateful for the team of talented creative people who’ve been working with us on this project.
When Mylene and I started our own agency a few months ago with the mission to help grow good in the world, I’m not sure either of us were confident we could make it happen…because we know you’re only as good as the people you work with.
And when you’re a fledgling agency without big salaries to dangle, it’s often hard to get the best people to come along for the ride. But we’ve been amazed by the freelance writers, art directors and designers, strategists, media specialists, producers, production companies, photographers, editors and even musicians who’ve chosen to work with us. It’s felt downright miraculous.
So yeah, I was flooded with gratitude.
And in short order, also…shame. Because in the middle of a world where so much is broken, in the middle of a country with so many deep problems, in the middle of a city with so many people hurting, gratitude sort of seems like a sign of…privilege.
Or of living in denial.
How can I care about the pain that’s all around me and still feel grateful?
I’ve been thinking about that a lot the last few days…and doing some reading about gratitude, about how good it is for us, emotionally and physically.
And then I ran across this quote from a Canadian social activist, Mary Jo Leddy, who said the “choice to affirm that there is enough for all is the beginning of social community, peace, and justice. The option to assume that there is enough frees the imagination to think of new political and economic possibilities.”
Gratitude, deep down in our bones gratitude, is what helps us believe that… helps us see that there is enough to go around.
Then it hit me.
Whenever the world changes for the better, it only happens because of deeply grateful people. “Radically grateful” people, Leddy calls them. Because they’re the ones who give freely of themselves, share what they have, and don’t hold back.
And perhaps the truth is, what may be at the heart of our global crisis of fear, exclusion and greed, damaged relationships, economic inequality, injustice, war, and the gross destruction of our environment, isn’t too much gratitude, but way too little.
So this Thursday on Thanksgiving, in the middle of the turkey and Jello salads, pumpkin pie and football on TV, I’m going to try to take a little time to actually think deeply about what I’m grateful for, and think about how I can live more in gratitude versus fear, and to truly give thanks — say it out loud to some people, and say it with my checkbook to some others.
If you decide to do the same, I will put in a plug for making a donation to the McCormick Foundation Communities Matching Fund. Every dollar you give is matched at 50%, nothing goes to overhead or expenses…and all of it supports Chicagoland nonprofits that are on the ground, working in their communities, listening to what people really need, doing something about it, working for change.
If you’d like, you can learn more about the Fund and make a donation here.
And in case you don’t happen to be in a movie theater over the holidays, here’s the film.