Thanksgiving season —celebrated in the US on the last Thursday of November— coincided with my son joining the university. Such an important milestone called for a quality time and celebratory dinner at one of the luxury hotels in town.

Although a traditional Thanksgiving dinner usually comprised of turkey, potato, beans and pie, we opted for a multi-course Indian cuisine in the comfort of a cosy dining room. We were met with an excellent service which prompted me to extend my gratitude to the restaurant staff.

As I mentioned the reason behind our small family outing, they regretted not being aware of it earlier to make a special celebratory touch as a courtesy. I was in awe of their kindness. Consequently, I sent a formal appreciation e-mail mentioning some of the staff by name. The message was reciprocated with a surprising follow-up call.

The humble phone conversation got me reflecting on past instances, where such appreciation was reciprocated in leaps and bounds.

The power of appreciation is underestimated. One can imagine what the soccer game or Olympics would feel like if conducted in the absence of spectators. As much as the technical preparations go a long way, the energy of players or runners feeds off the roars of an encouraging crowd.

Thanksgiving season is a great way to show gratitude for what is at hand. It is a healthy feature of social interaction. Realising that our lives are inextricably entwined and it is near impossible to achieve anything in solitude would inspire us to acknowledge others.

Appreciation begins among family members. I believe recognition and encouraging words helped me navigate academic and social life pursuits. A child brought up with constant encouragement will learn to give credit to others. Neglect and belittlement, on the other hand, extend into adult life and spread malaise that will be costly to weed out.

Sometimes I wonder if it was the deed or kindness in the heart that touched the spirit of the alms-takers. I am amazed how a change shared with the less fortunate be a lifeline at the receiving end, showering with a lengthy blessing and well-wish, especially by the elderly. It resonates with my upbringing as my mother instilled the importance of motivating others. She told me a phrase of encouragement by a passerby will invigorate morale for men at outdoor physical chores, despite offering to help.

The plight is similar in the workplace where employees are hard-wired to bring out a better output when encouraged. They go the extra mile to resolve intractable enigmas and overcome challenges in a conducive environment that acknowledges their talent. On the contrary, a workplace that does not recognise efforts will eventually lose its best people.

Modern management theories emphasise employee satisfaction is valued as no less than customers. Although a fat paycheck may be a primary motivator, instilling a culture of appreciation where employees feel important is a better way to keep them longer. Major design brands in the West have taken their social responsibilities up a notch by making sure their subcontractors in other countries, who supply cheap manual labour, maintain acceptable wages and working conditions. Consumer watchdogs and whistle-blowers go as far as infiltrating and exposing factories that do not align with the labour law.

Being grateful and appreciating others does not mean the world is a paradise or imply that people are suddenly transformed into angels. It is merely a preference to see the best out of situations and capitalise on positive notes.

We tend to ignore the kindness bestowed upon us, and all that life has to offer including being alive and healthy amongst nature. In turn, we ponder the past with a premonition of what tomorrow brings.

I recall a funeral ceremony, a priest was delivering a sermon laced with condolences and comforting words for the bereaved. The need to be grateful for what we have and how humans tend to forget was the epitome of his sermon. He challenged the audience to write down wishes and revisit them after a while; suggesting that despite most of them being fulfilled, are conveniently forgotten as humans naturally fixate on current woes.

On that note, I salute the man who inspired me to embark on a writing journey when I was only 25 years of age. John Graham (1957-2018) worked as chief country representative of Save the Children UK and will be remembered greatly in philanthropic circles. His humanitarian efforts as duly recognised by the Olympiacos Zorbas Greek Club, naming a restaurant in the verandah “John Graham’s Corner, Humanitarian Wednesdays". On that old small placard pegged onto the wall with two small screws, lays the gratitude and appreciation felt by many.

But Graham, for me, represented a torch bearer who paved the possibility of expressing an opinion without being a professional writer. Being published on the same platform as him and Richard Pankhurst for a young adult was a great honour. I followed his column “Travels in Ethiopia” for two years, in the now-defunct Addis Tribune not missing a single edition. His down-to-earth and matter-of-fact narration was entertaining and enlightening.

The articles were later compiled in his book “Ethiopia: Off the Beaten Trail”, which depicts Ethiopia in a panoramic glimpse of its regions and cultures, through the authentic eyes of a rookie. It was his homage not only paid in serving in humanitarian causes but also in his writing to share the wonders of this country with the world. The pen is mightier than the sword and thus was his!

PUBLISHED ON Dec 02,2023 [ VOL 24 , NO 1231]

Bereket Balcha works in the aviation industry and is passionate about fiction writing and can be reached at (

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