WHY I GIVE THANKS: Small reminders show plenty to be grateful for

Sarah Schindel
Special to NEW Media

I am extremely humbled to be asked to share why I give thanks. For several hours after the request, I thought about what I should write about. It didn’t take long for me to start seeing small reminders of what is on my heart that I should share.

For example, several times I caught myself thinking about how thankful I was for a simple kind act, conversation or gesture someone may have made that day. A couple of times, I was also randomly (or not so randomly?) faced with Scripture: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another.” (Hebrews 10:24-25, ESV). The way I see it, we (people) were made to be with each other, in community together, filling each other up with joy that can really only be found by loving your neighbor.

I’ll start with the work group who intensely worked on the Oconto Falls Community Garden, along with numerous people who donated, time, talent and funds to the project. Because of that effort, almost 5,000 pounds of produce was donated to Kingdom Come Food Pantry between July and October of this year.

Next is The Nurse’s Nook program that works within our Oconto County school districts and ensures there is no child in need. From food to clothes to medicine, The Nurse’s Nook fills the gaps. Children and families are blessed every year with Christmas gifts and holiday meals as well. I am blown away by what this small organization is able to achieve year after year.

Moving on to school teachers, paraprofessionals, secretaries and administration. I can’t tell you how many times I have felt thankful for them, in one facet of my life or another. From Marinette to Suring, Oconto and Oconto Falls to Gillett, I witness these professionals treating their students like their own children on a daily basis. They have so much love, joy and passion for their life’s calling, even with daily adversities most of us couldn’t imagine.

Next are our church communities (like Grace Lutheran Church in Oconto Falls) and establishments (like CJ’s Country Club in Abrams) who serve free meals either monthly or during holiday seasons to make sure no one is left out, lonely or hungry. Providing opportunities for people to share a meal is such an amazing way to create space and time for people to be together.

The coaches, parents and teachers who organize youth sports like football, baseball, softball, running club, wrestling basketball are undeniably the catalysts of so many wonderful opportunities for our youth. So much joy comes from being a part of and watching kids do and grow into something they love.

I can’t forget the littlest members of our communities who give me huge hugs and greet me with the sweetest smiles every time I walk into their schools. In October, one student in particular made me feel extra grateful. The child simply said “Hello, Ms. Sarah.” The entire previous year, I hadn’t heard this child say one single word. It was a real-life wow moment.

My last mention will be Kingdom Come Food Pantry and the people who give their time to plan, purchase, organize and pack food bags each and every week to make sure no one goes without. What an honorable way to serve others.

Family is the closest, most dear form of community we have. I give thanks for my husband who never seems to run out of time and energy for anyone who needs a helping hand. I give thanks for my kids who teach me how to be more patient and kind. I give thanks for my father-in-law who teaches me strength and endurance as he runs the race that was set before him. For my mom who teaches me to have joy in my heart for the little things. For my dad who teaches me less is more.

Thank you to each and every person who has given time, talents or just an extra bit of love or kindness to make our communities a beautiful place to live.

Sarah Schindel is the FoodWise nutrition educator for Marinette and Oconto counties for the University of Wisconsin-Madison Extension Division. She also serves as clerk of the Oconto Falls School Board.