By Jack Levine, President, 4-Generations Institute
On to a Sensational Spring, the season of rebirth, for you and loved ones.
Over the past weeks I have been contemplating…Who is worthy of our praise? Who is there for us when we need them most?
Those are the questions my essay seeks to address. Please invest a few minutes with my words and let me know what you think.
Those of us who have spiritual beliefs, irrespective of our individual religious affiliation or practices, express praise of a higher presence which transcends the toil and tribulations of the everyday and is the focus of our devotion.
Family is worthy of praise. We are born into a family rooted in its own history, ethnicity, and circumstances. Those who give us life or adopt us as their own should be high on our list for praise.
Family is the core of much that we need, our primary source of values, teachers of faith, and a guiding force instilling in us the hope to achieve.
No matter how we define family, absent its core emotional connection, we are alone without safety and security. In every generation, there are family members who sacrifice so much for our comfort and benefit. And for those whose family life has been painful, lessons learned about how not to behave toward one another may also prove of great value.
Next deserving of praise….our neighbors. Community is how we learn to connect to others, giving us the tools to relate to the world outside of family. In some cultures, community is called tribe, clan or village. But no matter the structure or label, a community which bolsters the family plays a vital role in our survival and success.
Never is the individual more powerful than in the context of a positive community. Isolation hampers human development; no one can flourish without positive connection with others. In the 1600’s British poet John Donne wrote “No man is an island.” That is the best description of the human condition….None of us can flourish absent a strong and sustaining set of relationships.
Next in the praise hierarchy are those who serve. Whether in health care, public safety, legal, justice or military fields, education or therapeutic services, religious leadership or advocacy activities, whenever someone chooses a life of service, they deserve praise. Focus on prevention of violence, abuse, oppression and other forms of maltreatment are among the highest of callings.
Community servants whose courageous acts defend, engage, elevate, and comfort us are truly members of our extended family. While we do what we can for our own, those who are there for us when we need them most are worthy of appreciation. Whether professionally, as volunteer time philanthropists or a combination of both, those who give of themselves provide a role model for our youth and inspire us forward.
And what about those whose hard work provides us food, creates or repairs tools, brings us advancements in research, helps grow financial assets, improves our transportation and technologies, promotes commerce and job creation, builds and cleans up our communities, and reports on the events of our world, they, too, deserved praise.
The creators of the arts, literature, architecture and culture are among humanity’s great achievers. What separates us from other species is our ability to create and preserve a body of work that outlives us. No matter the path of artistic pursuit, who could deny that our most valued possessions are unique creations of brilliant artistry?
By making us laugh or cry, dance or sing, an artist’s vision helps us see and define ourselves. Athletic excellence, too, deserves admiration for its focus on diligent training and performance under the stress of competition.
And our natural world deserves our praise for the beauty and life-sustaining benefits our diverse environment offers us. All species of wildlife and the wonders of our seashores, mountains, rivers and diverse inland lakes, waterways and parklands provide recreational and restorative emotional value.
We who are gardeners are nature-keepers, lovers of the land, and powerful voices for preservation. We live at a time when nature desperately needs us to care for its future. Humanity’s well-being is dependent upon environmental health and investments in clean life.
Finally, our community leaders deserve praise. While we may disagree with some of their decisions, it’s important to recognize that leadership in politics, business, and philanthropy requires taking a stand for others to respond to with approval or opposition. Those who seek and accept positions of leadership, whether their decisions deserve compliment or criticism, act on the belief that progress is never achieved through apathy.
It’s vitally important to praise others whose dedication improves our quality of life. None of us should declare independence. We are inter-dependent, across the ages and stages of life.
Despite our diversities, we are more powerful when we unite in our humanity and take every opportunity to connect positively with others.
Please consider the meaning of these words…..and give thanks to those in our family and community whose efforts mean so much.
Expressing gratitude is an honest compliment which elevates both the receiver and giver. When we measure what’s important, the calculation is clear. Those in our lives who love us, help us, and inspire us to be better are our most valued assets.
As I build the 4Generations Institute to promote inter-generational communication for benefit of all ages, I am awed by the power of relationships.
Just as in families, the health of a community is in the depth and breadth of relationships among those who share common interests.
As an advocate, I’m dedicated to assist those whose mission is creating better policies and more accessible programs to meet the needs of those who count on us, across the generations.