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Michael J. Nyenhuis, Americares President and CEO, has worked for more than 20 years to provide pathways to health for people who face formidable obstacles – everything from massive earthquakes to crushing poverty. He offers an informed and personal perspective on where we have been, who we are now and what the future might look like for the critical health issues and emerging crises that we confront everyday around the world.
In my role leading a global humanitarian organization, I am privileged to receive “thank yous” in many languages and many forms. There was a cow once and very large yams. I’ve received handicrafts, hats and a horse-hair whip. I have been given beautiful woven cloths, shirts, wraps, wall hangings and pictures.
Once, I received a goat. A gift from the people of a village in the West African nation of Côte d’Ivoire, it was given in appreciation for a clean water project my team had completed. We named the goat Meredith. I’m sad to report that she was later the “guest of honor” at dinner.
I’ve heard “asante” (Swahili), “shukran” (Arabic), “gracias” (Spanish), “dhanyāvad” (Marathi/Nepali), “salamat” (Filipino/Tagalog), “merci” (French) and other words of genuine thanks.
As nice as all of this has been, I recognize these thanks were not really meant for me. They came from people and communities that benefited from work done by tireless and talented staff from the organizations I have led and the generous supporters who provide the resources to make the work happen. I feel very thankful, myself, to receive these expressions of gratitude on behalf of others. It is the best part of my job.
I have always believed that much flows from a thankful heart. When we are grateful for the goodness that comes to us every day, in ways big and small, it can change our outlook on the world.
That’s why Thanksgiving means so much to me. How wonderful that we pause for a national holiday every year to remember what we are thankful for, to say thanks to our family and friends, to put the trials and stresses of life in perspective by remembering for what we are grateful.