Memo From Michael: So Much to Be Thankful For

I begin the 801st week of these commentaries with a profound sense of gratitude – the perfect attitude for the days leading up to Thanksgiving. High on my list is the privilege of communicating my thoughts to so many people. I am particularly grateful that I have been able to touch some lives in a meaningful way.

I am grateful that I’ve finally learned that feeling and expressing gratitude is actually a great gift itself. My disposition toward the day, toward my work and toward my life improves dramatically when I look at things through the lens of gratitude.

This has been one of the most difficult years of my life. Several of my daughters have needed medical attention and my marriage of 20 years has dissolved. My health is basically good but the deterioration of my mind and body has clearly begun. I have more aches and pains, less energy and I am more forgetful. I am approaching 70 realizing that many assumptions I made about how my life would be will not become reality. There are lots of things I can complain about.

And yet the simplest reminder of all the things that have and are still going so well allows me to realize that ingratitude is not only wrong, it’s stupid.

As I was writing this, just now, I got a text message from my 17-year-old daughter that she just finished her audition for NYU’s program in musical theater. She said she thought she did alright and that she loves and misses me. How can life get better than that?

Make this Thanksgiving real. Spend real time counting and appreciating your blessings. You deserve it.

Comments 28

  1. I don’t listen to you often enough, but I have stuck with my boycott of KNX! I am sad to hear of your difficult year, most saddened to hear about your marital problems. Recently, I learned of friends and family also going through similar tribulations. Somehow your news hits me the hardest.
    You are still my hero, your thoughts and concepts stick with me. When I get into a difficult predicament, I think WWMJD -(What Would Michael Josephson Do) – I guess he will still be grateful!! And I am forever grateful to you!

  2. You have left such an impression on me and so many people. You continue to inspire me in my work daily. When I am having a difficult day I always turn to one of your commentaries as a guide for the conversation I need to have with a colleague or my family. Your good work has obviously taken a toll on your personal life and I am sorry about that. I am thankful for you and the whole Character Counts! staff for what you stand for and offer all of us daily.

  3. I want to you to know how very sorry I am about your recent struggles and heartache. As I deal also with the most difficult time in my life I realize that it is through these struggles that I have become closer to the Lord and learned lessons and gained ensight that I would never have been able to otherwise. God bless you and keep you strong through this difficult time.

  4. I am indeed sorry that you have had such a difficult year! You have done so much to spread tolerance and compassion in this often partisan and mean world. You have not chosen an easy path, but your work is truly important. Your readers are grateful for your wisdom. Good luck for the next 800 weeks!

  5. I just wanted to share with you the following thoughts. You have truly been blessed and have touched multitudes near and far with your positive thoughts and words of encouragement for young and old. I include myself among the young–60 and heck I ach every morning during the first 15 minutes of my stretching exercises and impart character education with my high school students every opportunity I get in talking with them. I am bushed at the end of the day; but life is good because I count my blessings everyday and am grateful for every day. And yes it is such a warm and loving moment when my grown up sons and daughter call unexpectedly to say “thank you for being there all those years” and / or “we love you..” My wife likes it when we have meaningful conversations about character education. Again thank you for sharing your thoughts and words of wisdom during this time of difficulties. This to shall pass and remember we are on a crusade… so onward and may the Lord have mercy on us. Good Day.

  6. Dear Mr. Josephson,
    You have provided many listener with renew ethics. I heard you in one of those am stations, I do not want to endorse them either. Some times they aggravate me, therefore no ID. You are to stay strong and continue your quest providing ethical material that is so scarce in American society. Keep up the good work!

  7. Dear Mr. Josephson

    On the one hand I am sorry to hear about the challenges that you have had to face this year but on the other hand it is important to know that you are human just like the rest of us.

    I believe that it is critically important that meaningful and empowering messages come from real people, with real problems and every day challenges, just like those you aim to help. The point is that you are not trying to teach people to be perfect, just better and I believe that you have done an exceptional job.

    While you will most definitely not get your messages across to every kid in need, I am confident that you have had a positive impact on more people than you can imagine and for this, you should be beyond very proud of yourself.

    I will always admire the people in the world that take on tasks that most believe to be too challenging, but proceed nevertheless.

    While some individuals may not be as thankful as they should be, I am sure the entire country appreciates what you have done and continue to do for our society; empowering young humans to become better equipped to be the next generation of leaders.

  8. I subscribe to your emails and often quote you in the Friday memos I send out to the staff of the school district for which I am responsible. Our Strategic Plan includes a goal of improving the character of both students and staff, so your emails are applicable to my daily work. You have so much to offer, and have so beautifully put the words on paper that I often have needed to hear and to share. I am so sorry to hear that your personal life has taken a big hit this year, but I hope that it helps to know how many people you have touched and helped. God bless you and your family.

  9. I’m profoundly saddened to hear your marriage dissolved. You have brought so much balance, quality and grace into so many lives for so long; we can’t ever thank you enough. I wish you grace and comfort at this time. Being of the same age, I understand all the changes that are inevitable and that challenge us. Please know that you have given so much good! I saw a great coffee cup the other day: “Life – it’s how you handle Plan B”.

  10. Thank you for all that you give to us in the large community whom you may never see. In some way, I suspect that the endless giving that you have and continue to provide may have impacted your personal life in ways that may never be told, or left which remain untold until it is too late. This is a lesson that I am sure that you share with many, particularly many of us who share your mission in education, ethics, (and in my case, public health, as well). You have contributed to my understanding of the value of taking the time to say thank you, job well done, and I am proud of you … even to those closest to us. Stay well, best of luck in dealing with the hand that you have been dealt, and never forget those lives your words and actions have touched… we will always be thankful for these

  11. Several years ago, the best boss I ever had introduced me to you. You no doubt, have made a difference to millions and I remain grateful for the initial introduction from my boss. I strive to become a ‘Person of Character’ (which hangs by my desk at work). Thank you.

  12. Over the years you have taught me much and inspired me to be a better person. Thank you.
    I’m sorry this has been such a difficult year for you. I hope the lessons you learn through the turmoil help greatly in future years.
    This has been a tough year for me, too. I think medical challenges for my children and their spouses and children pain me much deeper than any personal challenges I might have (and right now I’m nursing a sore knee).
    Consider taking up martial arts. You will be amazed at how it turns back the clock. My eyesight (!), weight, balance, strength, endurance, and blood pressure have all improved tremendously in just a year and a half. There are many other payoffs, too. Just find the right teacher, someone who understands older bodies and their limits.

  13. Thank you for the memo Michael. A warm and true reminder that there is so much to be thankful for. Happy Holidays to you and may 2013 bring forward many blessings and more awareness that Character really Counts. You deserve it!

  14. Thank you for the uplifting words and stories you tell in your newsletters. Your year has been tough, but as my father says, they were just a bump in the road. (He said that as he was going through prostate cancer and radiation, and he is doing just fine now – what a man!) We always have a plan B in mind (even if we don’t know what it is, if things don’t work out for plan A). He is 75. You still have lots to be thankful for – your health (even with aches and pains), your family and your virtual friends, as it sounds like there are many. Looking forward to many more wonderful posts ahead.

  15. Pingback: COMMENTARY 802.4: Learning to Experience Gratitude

  16. Blessings to you in this difficult season in your life. Beverly mentioned that life is how you handle “plan B”. Don’t forget that this also entails making adjustments within “plan B” that could mean, plan “C” and “D”! As you know, there are many options before you, and I am extremely confident you will weather this stormy season in your life. Sinatra sang in the song “Cycles” that, “life is like the seasons after winter comes the Spring…. so I think I’ll stay a while, to see what tomorrow brings”. Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

  17. It sounded to me that you were a bit melancholy about the assumptions you had for your life not becoming a reality. Not that you need advice from me, but when you were young did you ever assume in your wildest dreams how many people you would impact in such a powerful way? Did you ever assume that you would save lives with your words of inspiration? Did you ever assume that you would make this world a better place? You have done that with your life. You should be very proud and I hope any feelings of melancholy you have in your heart will disappear with the knowledge that the love, encouragement, and inspiration you have given to thousands has changed lives. Your words have meant a lot to me and I thank you for all you do.

  18. You have been a beacon of light for so many others, let that light reflect back on you, guide you and warm you in this difficult season of your life. As one of your favorite authors Harold Kushner stated so well, “we all want to know that our life mattered somehow” – well yours most definitely has as expressed here by so many grateful people, me included. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all you have done and will continue to do for the thousands blessed by your presence in our lives.

  19. Dear Mr. Josephson,

    I am moved by this commentary. Congratulations on reaching of 801 weekly commentaries. It takes a high level of commitment to keep this going. You have made a difference in the lives of people way beyond your shores. Often I share your commentaries with the office staff within the Education District where I work. All who read it find it useful and always inspiring, although we live in a different culture from yours.

    Very often we see people living their convictions and persevering in their individual journeys and the assumption is that every aspect of their lives is going just as they want it, that life is good for that person, and if only life were that good for me, maybe I could make a difference too. I am so happy that you shared your challenges and struggles for this year with all of us so we can appreciate that you cared enough to inspire others notwithstanding your own struggles. When you needed, you gave. And by doing so you helped so many others get closer to a more fulfilling and true-to-themselves, life.

    Yours isn’t a life gone bad, diverted to Plan B. It is your life. And there are no “should haves” and “could-have-beens”, there’s only what is: your reality. And what you’ve chosen to make of your reality, is beautiful. There is undoubtedly some pain, but you have chosen to share your reality in the context of gratitude, and that I find phenomenal – true to everything I’ve learned from you.

    Thank you for sharing that, and for being the inspiration you’ve been to so many of us. God bless you.

  20. Dear Michael,

    I read your columns in the same way that the faithful go to church. Thank you so much for your many years of guidance and teaching. You are loved by many, I know! My hope for you is that your years become better than this past one and that you are able to continue to be positive – and as grateful for like as I am for you in my life!

    Peace and hugs,

    Heidi

  21. When I read this post, I felt as though I was reading my own story. Like you, my marriage of 22 years is ending, and I have been dealing with my own physical ailments. I have realized that it is easy to sink into self-pity and focus on the pain. I often have to remind myself that God gives us no more than we can face. At Thanksgiving, my 17 year old son was having great difficulty dealing with his father’s rejection. As I was trying to soothe his heart, my daughter secretly went about putting up our Christmas tree complete with decorations. I cried tears of joy and sadness, and she threw her arms around me and said “you will always have me.” There are no words to describe what her gesture meant to me. I know I am blessed, and I am eternally grateful for the support I have. I will forge ahead in faith, and I trust that there is a plan for all of us. Thank you for sharing your life with us.

    1. Thank you for your post, Mary. It’s August and it’s as if you read my heart. Thank you for your post, Mr. Josephson. You are real and wise. It’s unfortunate not all your readers catch the true depth of your words-even when they try to play on the words to hurt others as was the case with your piece on toxic relationships when shared to describe my marriage, my toxic kids. In truth, if we survive with gratitude in our heart for a life we lived and loved with no regret we will have learned a priceless lesson on life, on love, and GRATITUDE. One that hopefully carries us further than a million dollars and makes the promise of hearing our children’s hopefulness in their life/future extremely worthy of this short-lived pain. .

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