Editor’s Note: This article was incorrectly published under Mike’s 1-Minute Marketing column yesterday. This is a corrected publication and attributed to the author Richard D’Ambrosio. Thank you.
Even when times are good, sometimes Thanksgiving is a difficult concept for me to grasp. It calls on me to distinguish between wants and needs, and explore what true gratitude feels like and how I put my thankfulness to work.
I wanted the Mazda CX-5 I currently own because its practical, gets good gas mileage, has a sunroof – and it’s red, my favorite color. I shop for certain foods in my home because my children and I enjoy the way they taste, and they’re generally healthy for us to eat.
But I noticed something recently, when my car didn’t work properly. What I treasure more than my car’s sunroof, Bose sound system, comfort, etc., is that it affords me freedom. Living in a New York City exurb, you really can’t get very far quickly here if you don’t own an auto that runs properly.
My favorite coffee shop is about a 50-minute walk from my home, versus a ten-minute drive. It would be very inconvenient to just run out to get a missing ingredient for dinner without a car. My favorite hiking places would require a hike of their own, just to get there and back – so I would probably enjoy the great outdoors less without my auto.
When the pandemic caused my neighbors to panic and clear the supermarket shelves, we all got a dose of what a world without grocery abundance might look like. Quite a few of my family’s favorites weren’t available for several weeks during March and early April.
What this pandemic has taught me is that we live in a country that provides such an abundance of material things and experiences, that we can easily lose our perspective between wants and needs.
Over the next few days, we are going to see thousands of Social Media posts about thankfulness and Thanksgiving. I’m going to wager right now that the three most popular things people are grateful for will be (not necessarily in this order):
- My tribe: including my children/partner/family/friends
- My health
- My home
These are wonderful sentiments. In fact, I would list those very same things. My point of this column is not to point out the obvious, but to challenge all of us to take our thankfulness one step deeper into the lessons of this pandemic.
Let’s start with these guys. I’m a father of three. I have nine siblings of my own, though two have passed (as have my parents long ago). And hopefully the people I call friends, feel the same about me.
I have been lucky so far during this pandemic. None of my family have tested positive for COVID, but their workplaces have had incidents, and some of their incomes have been impacted. My income has been dramatically reduced due to COVID, and that has caused hardship for my family.
I have had two dozen or so friends who have contracted the virus, with at least six of them hospitalized, including three who told me they thought at one point during their hospitalization, that their life was coming to an end. Some of my friends have had family members and friends who have passed away after contracting COVID-19.
When I think about how I act to mitigate the impact of COVID-19, I wear a mask. I physically distance. I use my gratitude for my good fortune to motivate me to respect other people’s needs for being safe. I want this thing beaten so we can protect my tribe – and yours.
I try to contribute what little I can to our getting back to something of a normal life, to reduce the personal isolation and depression so many are feeling, to restart an economy that can prevent evictions, foreclosures, hours-long waits on food bank lines.
Which leads me to point #2.
I am a 56-year-old male. I am bordering on the higher risk group for complications and potential death if I was to contract COVID-19. Physically, I feel completely “normal” today – whatever that is. But my self-imposed isolation, which allows for outdoors activities and once-a-week sojourns to my favorite coffee, remains in place, because I understand how careless human contact can spread the virus.
I’m an extrovert. I thrive on being in the public, speaking at conferences, teaching in classrooms. This isolation is killing my spirit, and I likely am suffering from a moderate case of situational depression.
But I am deeply grateful that I am still standing, that my mind has the clarity to write this column, to jump on sales calls for my business, consult with my clients, etc.
This gratitude leads me to champion the pursuit of scientifically sound research about travel’s impact on the spread of coronavirus. I refuse to promote research that tries to convince people there is relatively no risk, or conversely, that the sky is falling. I fully vet a study’s methodology and get the opinions of people much smarter than me before sharing it on Social Media.
My thankfulness means I will not seek to benefit the travel industry and me, over the health of others. I want travel to restart intelligently, with every conceivable precaution incorporated into our policies and procedures.
Over the last seven years, I went from owning a 2,400-square-foot, four-bedroom, center hall colonial, to renting a two-bedroom apartment. I have never been more grateful than I am today for the four walls and roof I call home today.
The financial hardship of an ugly divorce humbled me and forced me to focus on the things that truly matter to me. Years ago, I may have enjoyed the sprawling kitchen, the den, a bedroom for each child, etc., etc. But those were wants. Not needs. I realize now my wants locked me into a way of thinking that reduced my greater freedom, and in many ways, I sacrificed my true self and dreams – for a house.
Today, my gratitude is for heat that kicks on when it gets cold. I am thankful for the internet that allows me to make a living from the safety of my home. And all of the money and energy that a big home once required from me, I now use to pursue what helps me feel more free.
Stripping down my life has led me to have a greater awareness of the need for all of us to think and act on behalf of the under-compensated in travel, so they can pursue “freedom” on their terms.
When I give thanks at my Thanksgiving table this week with my children, these are the thoughts I will share with them. Which leads me to the fourth thing I am grateful for: the ability to share my thoughts with my children, three brilliant, compassionate young adults. My hope for them, and you, is that we all can find a thankfulness in our hearts this difficult year, that frees us to pursue making our world a better place, for everyone.
Richard D’Ambrosio is a master storyteller who, for more than 30 years, has helped leading brands like American Express, Virgin Atlantic Airways, the Family Travel Association (FTA), and Thomas Cook Travel tell their stories to their customers, the media, and employees. A professional business coach and content marketing consultant with his own firm, Travel Business Mastermind, Richard most recently has worked with The Travel Institute, Flight Centre USA and a variety of host agencies and tour companies, helping entrepreneurs refine their brands and sharpen their sales and marketing skills. Richard writes regularly about retail travel agencies, social media & marketing, and business management.