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By giving people thanks, we give hope

Hope floats. There's a movie by that name. Most people would call it a romantic drama. I have watched it often. It's not an altogether happy movie, but I always feel happy at the end.

The movie's tagline is "when life fell apart, love fell into place."

Life is like that. It falls apart sometimes. Things happen — illnesses, family catastrophes or the death of a loved one. Hopefully, when difficult situations occur, we are able to rise up and deal with them. Hopefully, we have the love and support of family, friends and neighbors. Maybe it's even a "perfect" stranger who helps us cope.

I recall my father saying people needed "gumption" when times were difficult. He demonstrated a lot of that in the final weeks and days of his life. My mother used the word "grace." If the situation were challenging, she would say "this is a test of grace."

I think about them as I look at my cluttered desk where I have an always-open book titled, "365 Meditations for a Peaceful Heart and a Peaceful World." In it, there are frequent references to the work of Ralph Waldo Emerson. One of my favorites starts with, "Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the world." But there's another part of the book I read even more frequently, and the quote at the beginning is biblical, John, 13:14, one of my mother's favorite passages, "Jesus said, if I, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. I have set you an example. You are to do as I have done."

I received the book of meditations from my daughter, who has both grace and gumption — in great abundance. She gave me the book for Christmas last year. I'm not sure she realizes how often I refer to her little gift. I must tell her.

And so must you. Here is my Christmas Day message. Tell the people you love just how much you appreciate them. Tell them what you've learned from them. Give them thanks. Give thanks. Maybe it's through prayer or meditation or perhaps it's entirely through personal good works. And maybe it's not just people you know and love that you reach out to today. Could you make a phone call to someone who's alone? Could you knock on an unfamiliar door and wish them wellness into the New Year. You do that for them and they do it for someone else and maybe it just keeps happening. Maybe it will lead us all toward a more peaceful heart and a peaceful world.

We each have an enormous capacity for giving"¦ and I think there's a lot of unused capacity floating out there today waiting to be put into play. Sometimes it's as simple as a smile. Have you ever offered what felt like a random acknowledgement and then you realized, by the look in the person's eyes or the catch in their throat as they respond, you offered them so much more than that "¦ you gave them hope.

And hope floats.

Sharon Johnson is an associate professor in health and human services at Oregon State University and on the faculty of the OSU Extension. E-mail her at s.johnson@oregonstate.edu or call 776-7371, Ext. 210.