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Going Beyond Gratitude

By Rob Acker November 24, 2021

This Thanksgiving, millions of Americans will once again sit down for a meal with family and friends, most of us feeling especially grateful to be together in person for the first time in many months. While the pandemic still grips the globe, eased travel restrictions and vaccinations allow us to gather together in celebration once more.

We will bow our heads in thanks.

But we need to do more than simply give thanks.

A few years back, I had the opportunity to meet with Barbara Pierce Bush Coyne, who co-founded Global Health Corps. We talked about a lesson she learned from her grandfather, President George H.W. Bush: Each day, think of three things you’re grateful for, and write them down. This is a widespread practice now, of course, as studies show that gratitude can help us sleep better, get more exercise, experience less pain, and benefit from improved overall wellbeing. I’d been writing down my gratitudes, but had fallen out of step with carrying them through my day.

People standing outside a storefront and smiling at the camera
Made in Hackney’s community meal chefs provide emergency food service to communities in need

Our conversation inspired me to once again take note of simple gratitudes. It was raining here one day, which now rarely happens in Northern California. I thought how grateful I was to have a roof over my head. My own grandfather, a Norwegian immigrant, was living in a tent with his three siblings during the Great Depression. I have shelter, which has been a luxury for people throughout history, and still is for millions of people around the world today.

So it begins with gratitude. But being grateful means more than reflecting on the good parts of our lives. The actual definition of grateful is showing or expressing thanks, especially to another person — and the best way to do that is to take action.

A friend of mine named Sarah just shared with me how she writes down four “Gratitudes” each day in the left-hand column of her planner. On the right-hand side, Sarah writes down four things she’s “Looking Forward To.” This helps her to be sure to take action on her gratitudes. When she was feeling grateful for recovering from a broken leg, for example, she wrote how she was looking forward to volunteering for an adaptive sports program, which eventually led to her volunteering for Make-a-Wish.

This idea, I thought, was so insightful. After incorporating this idea into my own daily gratitudes, I learned how I can take my gratitude to an entirely new level. At, I’m grateful to be surrounded by more than 56,000 organizations all working hard every day to make positive changes in the world in 2022 and well into the future.

Among the gratitudes I’ll focus on as I sit down to Thanksgiving dinner with my family tomorrow will be for organizations that are dedicated to providing meals and addressing food insecurity in their communities. Like Made In Hackney, which provides 500 meals per day in their London community to those hit hardest by the pandemic, and UC Davis’ The Pantry, a student-run food pantry that offers foods and other important staple items to students.

This Thanksgiving, I’m grateful for the greater community for delivering these stories of positivity and progress. And I’m looking forward to taking more action with our members in the global effort to power our purpose.

Learn more about the latest nonprofit trends and how technology can power purpose.

About the Author

Rob Acker, CEO at
Rob Acker
CEO at
Rob leads, a social impact center at Salesforce. focuses on delivering world-class technology to nonprofits and higher education customers.