As I look back over the year and reflect on the aspects of my life for which I am deeply grateful, the obvious float to the top: health, love, peace and all the daily advantages that we enjoy but sometimes take for granted, like clean water, a warm house, finding a few minutes to meditate, furry four-legged friends, and family.
This year, however, I am even more aware of the profound privilege that is my daily work. Over the past two years, the news business has taken a dark turn. Fear sells ads and drives clicks, which create revenue. From fake news stories and natural disasters to mass shootings and the latest case of sexual discrimination, a daily barrage of acrimony has been delivered to our doorsteps. In 2014, Psychology Today wrote that the ratio of negative to positive news stories was 17 to 1. What must the post 2016 election numbers look like?
The nature of the news cycle is ironic. News, by definition, is something that happens infrequently. Yet, when we read, hear or see something in the media, we absorb it as prevalent truth. The news can seem overwhelming and we often react to it with increased fear and negative emotions. These emotions create our perception, which then becomes our reality. What you think is how you feel, and how you feel shapes how you act. An example: It’s no coincidence that the introduction of the 24-hour news cycle, thanks to cable news and the internet, corresponded with advent of helicopter parenting. A kidnapping in Tennessee, now news in around the country, had kids under microscopic parental surveillance for weeks, despite the reality that most kidnappings are conducted by family members, not strangers. Don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story.
But wait, it’s the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, which is my favorite holiday, and I’m supposed to be writing about gratitude. So what does any of this have to do with gratitude?
At Teak, our job is to create good news to provide some sense of balance to the negative. In creating news about our nonprofit clients and responsible companies whose work is fixing major social ills like poverty, racism, hunger, illness, and even climate change, we create stories of inspiration that showcase people, institutions and systems that are working toward solutions rather than adding to problems. When we generate media attention, increase social network followers, or drive attendance, donations and volunteerism for our wildly wonderful clients, we feel positive emotions, rather than negative ones, like happiness, joy, fulfilment and a sense of purpose.
Yes, happiness at work. Amazing, right?
And so, I am grateful. I am grateful for the opportunity to bring to the public the incredible work of people, organizations, and companies that put social justice and human wellbeing before financial success. I’m grateful to have some hand in helping viewers, readers and listeners of news feel inspired when they learn of our clients’ good work, like introducing young girls to careers in science and helping former gang members get into community college. And, I’m grateful that the positive feelings generated, as a result of this good news, will spur additional good work. A new cycle of positivity is created with each great story about Teak’s clients that we help tell. That is a lot for which to be grateful.
Finally, on this Thanksgiving, I will raise a glass to my Teak colleagues, past, present and future, who share this commitment with me and who will always be proud of their part in furthering the Teak mission and the missions of our clients. Feeling good alone is one thing. Sharing gratitude with your colleagues brings on a whole other level of joy.