Keith Anderson

Stability is often an elusive puzzle piece in our world.

We all need it, but we don’t always know how to secure it.

In many ways, stability has been frustratingly rare in many places these last two years. When COVID hit us with a full-frontal assault, we didn’t fully appreciate how encompassing it would become. It has disrupted every aspect of our lives, from simple things like being able to find cleaning sponges at the discount store to being welcomed at the drive-through window by a sign indicating the business is temporarily closed.

One of the more troubling casualties is the stark labor shortage that is crushing many businesses. In August, there were 10.4 million job openings, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. And the number of people leaving their jobs rose to 4.3 million. These shortages have led to palpable stress in the workplace as additional tasks are subsequently increased for the employees who remain and fatigue establishes a suffocating grip.

We are also encountering higher prices at the pump, grocery stores and restaurants. All of it leads to more stress and uncertainty. According to Gallup, adults in 115 countries experienced stress at the highest levels in the last 15 years. A record 40% of people worldwide indicated stress during a lot of the previous day.

It can make moving through daily life hazy, unbalanced and less fulfilling.

As we head into the holiday season, a period normally associated with its own set of stressful triggers, it makes one wonder what do we have to be thankful for in 2021?

That may be the question of the decade. So much of how we see and interact with the world around us leads to our happiness, fulfillment and thankfulness. And that, in turn, can lead to stability or instability.

This holiday season there is certainly no shortage of reasons that all of us could be discouraged or even fearful about the future. But the one constant in all that we do each day is how we treat others. That is completely at our discretion. Only we can control how we proceed with our day. Author H. Jackson Brown Jr. once said, “Remember that the happiest people are not those getting more, but those giving more.”

That single sentence may be the key to a happy and stable life. Yes, we all like to receive gifts and compliments, but it is easily more gratifying and important to give the gift or offer a compliment.

Why? At its core, it helps build trust and appreciation. It demonstrates to others that we consider them important enough to do something for them. And it doesn’t have to be monetary to qualify. They can be simple acts, like saying thank you to a co-worker, allowing more space between you and the car in front of you so a driver in an adjacent lane can merge without risking their life, or offering to return a grocery cart to a corral for somebody who could use the assistance.

Every act of kindness that we show to others has the potential to lead to more generosity and compassion by those we touch. It’s the kind of contagion we can all use right now.

It’s been uncomfortably easy to feel sorry for ourselves these last two years, causing many of us to believe we are somehow entitled to something much better. I’m reminded of this every time I encounter another empty shelf at the store. Or when I’m unable to visit a family member or attend a funeral because of surging COVID cases. The pandemic has certainly taken a lot from us, much of it beyond our control. But in truth, none of us is entitled to anything; not gifts, opportunities, money or compliments.

Anything of true value must be earned and then shared. That’s what each of us can control.

There will always be factors that are out of our control, but kindness, respect and love can be shared with anyone at any time. That leads to a much better world, where stability is reinforced and life becomes a gift.

There is a lot to be thankful for this holiday season. And it resides in each of us.

Keith Anderson is director of news for APG of East Central Minnesota

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