When I sat down to write this blog post, I told myself I wouldn't write about Thanksgiving. With the holiday only a few days away, I figured there will be plenty of posts about all the things people are usually thankful for: family, friends, significant others, and pets. (Perhaps also a great catering company, just in case you feel like taking the year off from cooking, just this once.)

But the truth is, I've found that the idea of gratitude takes on a whole new meaning when you work at a non-profit organization. In fact, I think it's almost impossible to work for an organization such as JUF/JF, or any not-for-profit cause, and not question your values, priorities and what it really means to be grateful.

Everything my co-workers and I do at our daily jobs ultimately serves a much higher purpose greater than simply earning a living. No one enters the non-profit field with the intention of making a lot of money. The far-reaching impact of working at an organization whose fundamental principle is to help as many people as possible, on any level possible, goes beyond any result we see on a daily basis.

Working here, I've seen firsthand how the work done by JUF/JF affects peoples' lives in such profound ways that some of them cannot even articulate their gratitude. I've been inside several JUF-funded agencies, and have seen the smiles and heard the laughter of people, both young and old, who are benefiting from the resources provided by the organization that I work for.

As a writer, I don't directly feed the hungry, provide shelter for the homeless or deliver humanitarian aid in foreign lands. But I know that the work I do matters in a way that is unprecedented in my life. After I wrote a particular article for JUF News, a woman wrote me an email thanking me for spreading the message about the cause. "You have done a mitzvah!" she wrote in the email. I was shocked. After all, all I did was write a story assigned to me by my editor. But here was this woman, letting me know that she was grateful for such a seemingly small thing.

Working at this organization, I have become aware of how many people live in need of some kind of assistance. On Thanksgiving, I will be in a warm home, surrounded by family and friends, eating several courses of food. But there are many people who will not be nearly as lucky as I am. There will be people shivering on the streets. There will be hungry children. There will be parents who lost their jobs, wishing they could provide for their families.

I won't be one of those people, but that doesn't give me an excuse to pretend that they don't exist. When you work at an organization that helps those people who have far less than you, you can't help but feel grateful for the things you do have. There are plenty of things that I would like, but luckily, I have everything I need.

I'm going to end this post with a meaningful quote by author J. Robert Moskin.

Thanksgiving comes to us out of the prehistoric dimness, universal to all ages and all faiths. At whatever straws we must grasp, there is always a time for gratitude and new beginnings.

This Thanksgiving, please consider making a donation to our 2012 Annual Campaign.

Karina Grudnikov
Join Karina Grudnikov as she explores life in Chicago’s Jewish community.... Read More

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