On three separate occasions, the staff at Providence Housing Development Corp. helped save Jeannette Hall’s life. That’s why she said she’s always grateful to the organization.
During the first instance, in the middle of Memorial Day 2004, she and the other residents of Providence’s West Town Village in Henrietta escaped a fire that burned their homes. Though West Town Village was later rebuilt, Hall opted to move into Providence’s St. Andrews Apartments, located on the campus of the diocesan Pastoral Center in Gates.
Disabled by asthma for more than 30 years and requiring oxygen, Hall, 64, also recently had trouble with congestive heart failure. She said that twice she nearly died in the arms of property manager Camille Zuniga after being unable to breathe due to the congestive heart failure. Zuniga called the ambulance and stayed by her side, she said, noting she recently was released from the hospital.
Now Hall is able to bake cakes and make spaghetti and meatballs for some of her friends and neighbors. She’s also able to spend time with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She said she is grateful to Providence.
“They didn’t have to give me this place,” Hall said. “They didn’t have to worry about me. I’m thankful I’ve got energy to get up and help.”
Although November includes one day set aside for saying thanks, like Hall, many residents in the diocese advocate saying and showing gratitude all year long.
Deacon Ron Tocci of Fairport’s Church of the Assumption Parish coined the phrase “Thanks-living” in a recent homily he preached on gratitude. The homily was prompted by the Gospel story of how only one leper out of 10 healed by Jesus returned to thank the savior. Deacon Tocci said people need to make sure their thanks is heartfelt, not mechanical.
“It all boils down to that constant awareness and appreciation of all good things you have, no matter how your day is going,” he said.
Difficult times bring their own blessings, said Susan Staropoli, a spiritual director and a parishioner of Rochester’s St. Monica Church who has led workshops on gratitude.
“My belief is that God is showering us with blessings all the time, every day, even in the midst of hardship,” Staropoli said.
Area parishioners say they have found many ways to display their gratitude.
Some pray. The members of the Saturday Morning Men’s Prayer Group at Fairport’s Church of the Resurrection get together every other week to say thanks in prayer.
“We laugh, and share each other’s company and support one another in a time of need,” said Bob Hinds, a Resurrection parishioner and prayer-group member.
Others take part in the Eucharist’s prayer of thanksgiving. Father Kevin McKenna, pastor of St. Cecilia Parish in Irondequoit, said the Eucharist should serve as a model of gratitude for our daily lives. It also should compel people to share their blessings with others, through time, talent or treasures, he said.
“It’s not enough just to say thanks, but I think we have to show our gratitude,” Father McKenna said.
Around holidays, some people who were shepherded through a financial crisis by the Samaritan Center of Catholic Charities in Tompkins and Tioga counties will say thanks or show their gratitude by bringing in baked goods, said Thea Parker, the center’s program coordinator.
“It’s great to hear a thank you verbally, but that’s not why we do this work,” Parker said. “We do it because this is our job, and because for many of us, this is a calling or a mission. But when we do get a thank you, that is very much appreciated by staff.”
Mercy Sister Janet Korn, social-justice awareness coordinator for diocesan Catholic Charities, said those helped by the migrant-housing center La Casa in Wayne County often say thanks to staff for the simplest of things: warm water, a shower, a bed to sleep in and a place where they can do their laundry.
“They are just deeply grateful to have somewhere to come,” said Sister Korn, who noted that their gratitude is contagious; it makes her grateful that La Casa can help them.
Like the migrants saying thanks for simple things, professional declutterer Diane Zielinski said she suggests people strive for simplicity in order to allow gratitude into their lives. Zielinski, a parishioner of St. Monica, will be leading a two-session discussion on gratitude and clutter at 7 p.m. Nov. 7, and Nov. 14 at St. Monica, 831 Genesee St., Rochester.
“I think sometimes we just buy and collect things mindlessly,” Zielinski said. “We are not showing appreciation for what we have because we constantly need more.”
Zielinski said she lived a cluttered lifestyle in the past, buying things she already had and losing things she needed, until her favorite Bible passage, the lilies of the field, (Matthew 6:28-29) helped her realize that the desire to acquire keeps people from enjoying what they have.
“Do not worry about what you eat and wear, because God will provide,” she said, paraphrasing the passage.
She said the Bible also gives the example of this principle when Jesus calls his disciples to follow him.
“He expected them to drop everything because he could offer them a better life,” Zielinski said. “If we let go of a cluttered outside, we will find more inside.”
Staropoli suggests people keep a daily journal of things for which they are grateful.
“When we are in touch with gratitude, we are in touch with our core and the essence of God: wonder, awe and surprise,” she said.
Staropoli noted that when people recall a moment of gratitude, they are transported to that moment again. That’s why she said she believes happiness comes from being grateful for what we have.
“You can’t be complaining and grateful at the same time,” she said.