• Leah York, CAE

Practice Active Gratitude this Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a challenging time for me now.

But, until 2016, Thanksgiving was also always my favorite holiday. The gift-giving and gift-getting of Christmas would overwhelm me. I always felt flustered during Christmas. But Thanksgiving I loved. It was just about family.

For as long as I can remember, my family had a tradition of putting a jigsaw puzzle together over Thanksgiving weekend – my two siblings, my father, and I would work on the puzzle and chat and laugh. My mother was always in the other room cooking. Thanksgiving was an easy and joyful time.

Everything changed when my brother, Talbott, was dying from cancer.

My brother was always my person; he was my support. Thanksgiving of 2016 was the last holiday we had together. It was the last time I shared a bonding moment with my little brother (40 years old at the time).

When I picture Thanksgiving now, I often flashback to that last Thanksgiving, looking over at Talbott’s solemn face during prayer, catching his eye, and experiencing a calm, silent glance shared just between us. That moment shared between just us was our way of saying goodbye to one another.

So, Thanksgiving is hard. And, since 2016 I’ve tried to create new memories and traditions. I have made it a point to reclaim my favorite holiday.

As a small part of my effort to create new Thanksgiving traditions, I’ve also started a habit of practicing active gratitude.

Gratitude is an action word. To be grateful, it’s more than just my thoughts of thanks. With active gratitude, it matters what I am doing and how I am showing up. So, this is how I’m practicing active gratitude for this year:


1. I am thankful for my community of Carmel, Indiana.

I live in a beautiful, Disney-like place that has been so good for my family. I am so grateful to have a safe, clean community to have raised my child in, to walk the trails in, and to call home. I walk on the Monon Trail through downtown almost every day.

I show my gratitude and respect for my community in my actions. Whenever I see a little piece of trash, I pick it up. Whenever I see a rock out of place in the landscaping, I place it back where it belongs. I do my part to say thanks and keep my community clean and pristine.

2. I am thankful I get to spend my days doing the work I love.


Every day I get to wake up and work alongside a team of amazing, like-minded, nonprofit professional women. At Talbott Talent, we get to help nonprofits solve big problems. We get to improve the culture of nonprofits daily. I love my business and what I do.

But I’ve had jobs before where I had to do things I didn’t love to do. And, over the past few years, I’ve really started to acknowledge how grateful I am to do the work I love. Now, I show gratitude for my work life by thanking and tipping others who might be working in jobs that, while they may love, wouldn’t spark joy for me if I were doing them.

Whenever I interact with someone and give a generous tip, I’m not only saying thank you to them. I’m showing active gratitude for the work I get to do each day.

3. I am grateful for the legacy my brother has left for me in my business.


My business, Talbott Talent, is named after my brother. Talbott was business savvy. His willingness to take risks, to be creative, and to follow his dreams inspires me daily. Every day, as we change nonprofits and the communities and industries they serve, I am practicing active gratitude for my brother and the legacy he left me – to dream big and lead a business that makes an incredible, ripple of impact in the world.

Gratitude is an action word that can be as simple as picking up a piece of trash while I'm on a walk to show appreciation for the community where I live or giving an extra tip all throughout the year to show gratitude for a service that they provide that I would otherwise have to do myself. I’m grateful for the work we get to do and who we get to work with – both the people and the organizations.


This Thanksgiving, I challenge you to join me in turning your thoughts of gratitude into actions. With each pebble we put back in place, with every extra tip we leave a restaurant server, with every day we approach our mission-focused work with joy, we actively show our gratitude.

For the ability I have to demonstrate my gratitude actively and for my brother Talbott’s influence on my life, I am so very thankful.

Wishing you good wishes and gratitude this Thanksgiving,