Living a Life of Gratitude: The Ethics of Giving Back
As we welcome another holiday season, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for all that is around me. It has been more than a year and a half since I surprised my children when I was released from prison. I have had the opportunity to share my story and spread my mission of ethical vigilance in everything we do, in hopes to inspire others to always do the right thing, no matter the consequences. I have met people all over the country who share their personal stories with me about ethical challenges they have faced at home, in the workplace, and in their communities. I honor the people that stood by me and offered me strength and support. These include mentors, friends, family, and colleagues with whom I have developed authentic relationships during my life. I recognize that I am home with my family because of my dedicated and brilliant attorneys, David Markus, Mona Markus and Margot Moss. I am living a life of gratitude every day.
I am fortunate that global multi-national corporations now turn to me for ethics and compliance training to help create a corporate culture committed to virtues and values. I share my personal story in an effort to provide a cautionary tale to inspire others to act ethically in each moment. But, I also express my gratitude for all that the universe has offered me. In Huston Smith’s book And Live Rejoicing, he states that gratitude is one of the two categorical, unconditional virtues. “Gratitude: One of the Most Important Virtues.” www.patheos.com. ; November 24, 2013. As I reflect on my experience and my research in the field of ethics, it is clear to me that the feeling and awareness of gratitude are paramount to living an ethical life.
As my feet touch the ground each morning, I remind myself that my life is a gift and each day is universally blessed for my good. I am consistently conscious to the simple fact that the seemingly bad or negative occurrences are also moments that I am grateful for. With a sense of gratitude, it is hard to be cruel or indifferent, as the virtue of being thankful precludes such a feeling. Rather, living a life of gratitude opens the door for me to consider others and see the good in everything. I also know that there is a higher force of energy that I can positively emphasize with intent and thus, transform my life. It is all a gift.
The gift that I cherish the most since my return home is the fact that my children have grown stronger, more resilient, and each committed to living a life of always doing the right thing, no matter the consequences. In fact, this is something that as an adult, and after everything that I have experienced, I am still learning. I am lucky to have the chance to learn from my children. My son, Kyler, just turned 13 years old. Last week, we stopped at Walgreens because he really wanted a specific type of snack. After saying no, I ultimately acquiesced. As I waited outside the building, I was parked next to a car with the hood up. An older gentleman was under the hood and near him was a man that appeared to be homeless. The man’s elderly wife sat in the front passenger seat. As my son returned to the car, I heard a knock on my window. I turned to see the man asking me to roll down the window. As the window began to descend, the man asked I could give him a jump with my car. My immediate instinct was to protect my son and myself as we all know there are some bad people around in our world. Given the scenario, I was worried of a scam or a trap. So, I made up an excuse to have to be somewhere with my son. The next moment, my son had my attention as he gave me a look that meant one thing in my head – “Mom, that is not living by your motto – Do the right thing, no matter what.”
You see, in the heat of the moment, it is a dilemma that we all face. Do we follow our inner voice and listen and do the right thing, or do we let other circumstances sway us as we rationalize and make excuses for our actions. I was ready to leave. My son made me realize that if we are living a life of gratitude, we need to be ethical and do the right thing. Five minutes later, the old man and woman were hugging and blessing me as their car started and they were on their way. I got back in the drivers seat and turned to my son and said “Kyler, thank you for growing and having the strength to keep my feet to the fire. Thank you for making sure I helped a man who truly needed some love and assistance.” Kyler turned to me and said “You see mom, I knew there was a reason we needed to go to Walgreens today.” I was so quick to make assumptions and think the worst possible outcomes, yet my son’s innocence led him to understand the man’s need and guide me to do the same.
No gift is as great as a child teaching and leading his parent. I am so grateful for the ability to be with my family and friends this holiday season and each day, challenge others to be their best and do what is right, and have the freedom to be transparent and authentic in the fact that I am still a work in progress. I am still an imperfect being. I am blessed and truly thankful that I am now living a life of gratitude.
Rashmi Airan‘s mission is to share the need for ethical vigilance and to inspire you to make good ethical choices in all areas of your life. Rashmi is an ethics speaker and consultant fighting to create a culture of conversation and bring ethical issues in business to light, to promote integrity, to enhance commitment to fiduciary duty, to build ethical leadership, and to shift the paradigm of ethics standards through ethics training.
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