Columnist Daniel Cantor Yalowitz: A journey of having and sharing gratitude

Daniel Cantor Yalowitz

Daniel Cantor Yalowitz


Published: 06-23-2024 11:00 AM

Each day we’re alive is a precious gift. Beyond the (barely bearable) news cycles, I feel blessed to awaken each morning, hopeful that I have another day to do my best, to connect with others, to have meaningful interactions, and to support others on their life journeys. There are always challenges, to be sure, some resolvable, some more perplexing, and some to simply procrastinate on. But, even with these, no matter how difficult, I am still glad to be alive, to have the opportunity to strive for further growth and development.

“Stretch, don’t stress” became my mantra early on during Covid. While I observed, felt, and lived with the pain and sadness of unrelenting sickness and people passing, I concurrently felt fortunate that I was alive to support some of them and their families through the worst of times. I was blessed to have the time, energy, and focus to write and publish a book about one of the most precious aspects of being alive: the gift of friendship (“Reflections on the Nature of Friendship”) based on my life experience, observations, reflections, interviews, and research. Through it all, I did my utmost to live up to my mantra — sometimes successful, sometimes not. I could lean in on the gratitude I feel and felt to be able to stretch; stress often negated the warmth and joy of sharing that positivity.

It’s not easy to express feelings of appreciation and gratitude. When I get edgy or frustrated (even if for a few moments on a daily basis), I forget or lose that sense of generosity toward others as I get enveloped in my own “stuff.” This is common, frequent, and human. Anger and fear can easily defeat the having and sharing of gratitude not only with others, but within oneself as well. When I can catch myself losing this warm, caring, and loving sensibility, I work to re-regulate myself as quickly and thoroughly as possible.

No matter how off-putting times are in our lives, we also have opportunities to enjoy and live with all manner of possibility, beauty, and hope. Without any of these, life would seem far more onerous than it actually is — and now is a painfully hard time for many people worldwide, as well we know. What helps me is striving always to see the bigger picture of things rather than continually sweating all the small stuff, of which there is plenty.

Instead of sweating the small stuff, which beats me down, I find it preferable to find ways to notice the goodness in the tiny things I and others do throughout the day. Some examples: my wife putting away the dishes and not telling me (a delightful serendipity); a friend dropping in unannounced to gift me with something they’re aware that I want or need; someone offering to water my garden without my asking when they know I’m headed out of town for a few days; and my remembering to bring a meal or the gift of time to be shared to an unwell friend or colleague without being asked or reminded. These may be considered small, but they are meaningful; they matter in the lives of people who receive them — as they do to me.

Visiting friends now met five-plus decades ago and several sets of cousins (my “West Coast Clan”) in Sonoma County in northern California this week has been a case study in having and sharing gratitude. The profundity of living with and loving these people for so long — giving and receiving, always sharing intimately — has had a marked effect on me. Every day, every interaction a blessing.

I’m not alone even 3,000 miles from home. In fact, I am at home! The emotions run deep, and I feel a need to articulate and express them — and there is space and time to do so.

With so much feeling so broken in so many ways, it is reassuring to my soul and psyche that something is whole. Relationships and friendships are easy places to show gratitude and appreciation, and I am called on from within to make sure my hosts know and feel that from me. It’s a special time, and I am working to compartmentalize the hardships that exist in so many places so that I can be present and attentive to the gifts I can offer and take in. And then I remember that this is a path that I can always choose from among the many that present themselves to me as I journey through this one precious life.

The best news is, this isn’t just for me! It’s unique, perhaps, in the ways that I experience what we call and know to be this special form of gratefulness. Offering (and receiving) gratitude is available to all of us — it’s just a matter of focus and kindfulness. It is my heartfelt intention to practice this every day from now on.

Daniel Cantor Yalowitz writes a regular column in the Recorder. A developmental and intercultural psychologist, he has facilitated change in many organizations and communities around the world. He is former chairman of the Greenfield Human Rights Commission and his two most recent books are “Journeying with Your Archetypes” and “Reflections on the Nature of Friendship.” Reach out to him at