Message From the President: My Gratitude List

Dear Friends & Colleagues,

I love the holidays. I’ll admit to being a bit like a kid when it comes to the anticipation and wonder that comes at the end of the year. Even in a year (or two) filled with uncertainty and underlying anxiety, I find such comfort in the traditions that unfold from Halloween right through New Year’s Eve. The holidays help to strip away some of the heaviness we carry throughout the year and give us an opportunity to forget, at least temporarily, our troubles. I do like to take this time of the year slowly and the holidays one at a time.  Seems every year before we put away the jack-o-lanterns the stores start playing “Jingle Bells.”  

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, or any (or ALL) other holidays at this time of the year, let’s take a little time of quiet reflection. Even in times of great stress and fear, there are moments of light and things for which we can be truly grateful. Allow me to share part of my list with you in hopes you may be inspired to use the Thanksgiving holiday to reflect on what you are most thankful for.

1) Family

COVID has touched us all, at least indirectly, as most of us have lost friends or colleagues or have held the hands of loved ones who have experienced loss. I feel extraordinarily fortunate that my family has not experienced pandemic-related loss directly. When I think about what means the most I think about a loving, supportive spouse, healthy and happy adult children and my six gorgeous grandkids. And my work family…a tirelessly dedicated team of professionals committed to making the world better for animals and people. And friends and family near and far, each of whom has enriched my life in so many ways.

2) Animals

At the risk of preaching to the choir, I cannot imagine my life without being surrounded by animals.  In my case there are three terriers who ensure there is never a dull moment in our home.  I am also staff for a 31-year-old macaw who has been with me for nearly 24 years.  As I write this, he is destroying another expensive toy with the zest of a toddler!  And there’s Murphy, a 31-year-old quarter horse who has been a constant in my life for well over 20 years.  In his younger years he hauled me over hundreds of miles of trails, and as a senior he provides a kind of therapy that only an equine can provide.

3) Our Work

It may seem trite to say, “Animal welfare isn’t what we do, but WHO WE ARE,” but it is true. I marvel every day at the creative, hard-working professionals in our field. This work is certainly not always easy, but it is constantly challenging and rewarding. When I look back at the progress that has been made over the more than 37 years that have passed since I stumbled into this profession, I am stunned and filled with gratitude. I am thankful for lifelong learning and growth, and for the hundreds of people I have called colleagues and friends. Over the past couple years, I have had the great pleasure of working with our DEI Committee, focusing on making our profession and our communities more diverse, equitable and inclusive. I have learned so much from this dedicated group. They have allowed me to make mistakes, and have made sure I learned from each of them. Our fantastic Board of Directors have supported our commitment to this work whole heartedly and have embraced it in their own organizations.

4) The Future

I honor the past and embrace the present, but really relish the future of our profession.  Together we are making such an impact on our communities and the world.  We are limited only by our imaginations.  The progress we have made over the past 40 years or so will be eclipsed by the progress we will see over the next 10-20 years. Remember that song in the ’80s, “The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades”? (For those of you not yet born then, Google it!)

As you prepare for the Thanksgiving feast, I hope you will take some time to reflect upon your own gratitude.  Whether you’re gathering with family and friends, having a small meal with a partner or working on the holidays, know that you are special and that you are most definitely on my gratitude list.

Happy Holidays!


Photo: Justin Luebke/Unsplash

Jim Tedford, CAWA, is President and CEO of The Association for Animal Welfare Advancement.

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