Every New Year is filled with vows.
Mostly, we make the sort of vows that have to do with ourselves. We promise to take better care of ourselves. To rest. To exercise more. To eat healthier foods.
Indeed, most of us are working too hard and not getting enough sleep.
And we know that most Americans aren't eating as well as they should or getting enough workout time. There's plenty of room for self-improvement.
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This year, we could shift the emphasis.
We could vow to think of others, to acknowledge those who go, so often, unthanked.
Who are among the most important people to our world? Who goes mostly without much in the way of gratitude?
The folks at the front desk are surely among them. Here are men and women who work with strangers every day to help them fit in the doctor's appointment, direct them to the right office, fill out the forms, find them a resource.
Yet, if we are in a hurry, or aggravated with whatever the process happens to be, these are the people we hammer on first.
Anything that is going wrong - from the slight delay to finding that some rule or regulation is standing in our way - is blamed on the folks at the front. (If we think about it, we might ask who is causing the delay or making the rules. Usually, it's not the face we see behind the plastic window.)
Teachers do the most important work we can imagine. They are taking care of our kids for at least half of each working day, nurturing them and educating them. They are working in the shadow of a never-ending mountain of paperwork, working with children who, quite naturally, represent a range of challenges - from language skills to emotional ones.
Nothing in their training can possibly prepare them for all that they will face in the actual classroom, from the child living in abject poverty (and there are many more of them, lately) to the child who seems well-off but is hiding a host of turbulent emotions because mommy and daddy keep fighting.
Our teachers are our kids' caretakers. We know how critical that job is to their welfare and ours.
Yet our thanks are mostly confined to end-of-year gift cards.
Nurses could get more of our appreciation. It's easy to focus on our doctors, of course. They seem so often to be making all the critical decisions. Yet our nurses are the ones who are so often responsible for our hour-by-hour care.
As anyone who has been in the hospital can tell you, it is the nurse who moves your body, helps you stand and move, and protects you against falls. A nurse who is gentle and patient is a real gift.
Can we consider those at the front desk, those teaching our children, and those in the front lines at clinics and hospitals? Could we include in our New Year's promises and vows a commitment to help take care of them as they take care of us?
This year, let's thank those doing routine and necessary things for us. Let's thank those doing the difficult work of helping raise our kids. Let's thank those doing the critical tasks that help keep us healthy.
Let's make a vow, and give thanks.