Photo courtesy of Andrew Nelson
Local runners recently took a route around Riser Lake to celebrate the memory of Sean McCabe.

By Ashley Lodato

There’s usually much to be grateful for, but this week in particular we pause and deliberately reflect on all the reasons we’re thankful. I’m reminded of this every November as I remember Sean McCabe, his death in 2009, and the influence he had on so many people in our valley by inspiring them and making them feel valued.

Each year near the anniversary of Sean’s death, a small but dedicated group of runners has met to complete a run in Sean’s memory. Andrew Nelson, one of the runners, says “It’s about community. It’s about being outdoors and movement. It’s about an understanding that collective circumstances are bigger than individuals.” Andrew calls these “Methow Valley characteristics” and notes that Sean embodied them all. Running around Riser Lake with the group this year, says Andrew, “there was an air of thoughtful joy.”

I like to think about this “air of thoughtful joy” permeating this holiday season. On Thanksgiving most of us will spend the afternoon and evening with family and friends, eating meals of unvarying similarity and sharing our thoughts about gratitude. It’s a lovely tradition, and a practice that we could all benefit from making into a habit.

Then the next day and in the weeks to come, incongruously, many people will send children forth to sit on the red-suited laps of bearded strangers and let them deliver an impossible shopping list of items they hope to receive for Christmas.

I don’t harbor any illusions about being able to effect widespread change regarding this tradition, but I’d like to ask something of you Methow Valley adults. Think about how wonderful it feels to give a really special gift. You have all the build-up with planning the gift, a cozy secret you keep for days or weeks prior to bestowing it, and then the warm feeling (all that serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin to the brain!) when you deliver the gift and see the recipient’s reaction. Has receiving a gift ever felt quite as good as giving one? Not for me, and I suspect not for you, either.

So why do we rob children of this opportunity to value giving over receiving by constantly asking them “What do you want Santa to bring you?” when what we could be asking them is “What do you plan to give for Christmas?” Let’s flip that switch, channel our inner JFK, and start asking kids not what they are going to get, but instead what they are going to give.

You’ve probably heard about the health benefits associated with giving (many of which do not correlate with receiving, interestingly enough). Giving makes you feel happy. It lowers blood pressure and reduces stress. Giving results in increased self-esteem and decreased depression. Some studies even show that giving is associated with longer life. Giving stimulates cooperation and social connection. And above all else, giving induces gratitude, which opens the mind to seeing all the beauty, wonder and possibility life has to offer.



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