Gratitude. Noun. A sincere appreciation for blessings we have received. Thankfulness. Once a year, we have the official excuse of Thanksgiving Day to ponder thankfulness. Research shows that a daily practice may have health benefits.
For years and years the practice of psychology focused on what was wrong with people to determine ways to help them get better. Recently, the field is embracing the notion of positive psychology - whereby healthy, happy people are studied to find out what makes them that way. Turns out, an attitude of gratitude is linked to many health benefits including a reduced risk for cancer, reduced stress levels, improved immune system, ability to deal with loss and more.
During a class I took recently, the professor gave an interesting assignment: Draw two 10-by-10 grids in your journal. Every time you say ''thank you'' color a block on one grid. Every time someone thanks you, color a block on the other grid. I found it an interesting way to draw attention to my own level of gratitude, and the gratitude focused in my direction. I'm embarrassed to admit that I often fall into cynicism and negative thinking. Exercises in expressing gratitude force you to turn things around in your head. Trouble at work? At least I have a job! Leaky faucet? At least I have a house.
Emily Thomas holds two baby American Kestrels she just banded.
This morning I decided to try an exercise to cultivate gratitude. As I drove to work, I chose to be aware of things that I'm truly thankful for and to say a silent ''thank you'' for each. My car started without a problem and the gas tank was full. (Thank you.) The traffic was light, all the drivers I encountered were polite and none were talking on their cell phones. (Thank you.) The sun wasn't quite up yet - and therefore was not in my eyes. (Thank you.) The facelift project is making our downtown look so pretty. (Thank you.) The fog over that one section of Route 62 made for a beautiful, misty scene. (Thank you.) I could sing along with the song playing on the radio. (Thank you.) I get to work in one of the most beautiful places in the county. (Thank you.) We at Audubon have a lot of community support, so many members and friends, volunteers and donors, participants and cheerleaders. (Thank you!)
In fact, there is so much to be thankful for that Audubon chooses to share a special Thanksgiving each year with all those who help make it possible. Thanksgiving with the Birds is Jamestown Audubon's oldest tradition - always falling on the Saturday before the traditional Thanksgiving Day. The first celebrations were held at Allegany State Park - outside - literally with the birds! Our modern version of the event is much more luxurious. We still cook the Surprise Soup appetizer over an open fire outside, but dinner is served inside in our multi-purpose room - all warm and dry. Audubon provides the turkeys, thanks to the $4 per person fee we charge for the event. Side dishes and desserts are provided by the diners, as are place settings, since no one wants to wash more than 100 dishes!
Even if it were only about the food and fellowship, it would be worth attending! But wait! There's more. After we eat, we are educated and entertained by a speaker. Over the years we have heard from river rafters and authors, builders of green buildings and world travelers. This year, we are honored to have Emily Thomas who will share her bird-banding experiences through stories and pictures. From intense fall migrations to northern goshawk banding, from Audubon spring demonstrations to baby Kestrels, she will explain why the data collected are important tools in avian conservation.
Emily holds an associate degree in Wildlife Technology from Penn State DuBois and bachelor's and master's degrees in wildlife and fisheries science from Penn State University Park. She has been employed by the USDA Forest Service's Northern Research Station in Irvine, Pa., since 2005, where she has worked on various research projects on the effects of forestry practices and oil and gas development on songbirds in the Allegheny National Forest. She has been banding birds at Jamestown Audubon since 2007 and started a banding station for the Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship (MAPS) program at the Sanctuary this past summer.
We can only seat 100 or so at dinner and we usually sell out, so if you want to attend, you should call in your reservation for Saturday, Nov. 19. We sample the soup at 11:30 a.m., dine at 12:30, and enjoy the speaker at 1:30. If you're up for it, you can join a group for a walk-about after the festivities.
The Audubon Center & Sanctuary is located at 1600 Riverside Road in the town of Kiantone, one-quarter mile east of Route 62 between Jamestown, N.Y. and Warren, Pa. Reach us by phone at 569-2345 or visit our website at jamestownaudubon.org. Trails and Liberty viewing are open from dawn to dusk. The center is open Mondays and Saturdays from 10-4:30 and Sundays from 1-4:30.
Jennifer Schlick is program director at Audubon and will be bringing her famous cranberry sauce to the dinner.