Gifts for Thanksgiving: Necessity is the Mother of Reinvention

The True Meaning of Thanksgiving?
Nov 22, 2011 10:36 AM ET

What's Thanksgiving Really All About?

From Glenn Croston's blog at Ecopreneurist

Thanksgiving is just around the corner and ideally it’s not just about food, floats and football, and it’s not just about shopping. It’s also about giving thanks. We’ve faced some great challenges in recent years, but as great as the challenges are some people are taking lost jobs or other setbacks as opportunities to take their life in a new direction, thankful for the opportunity to reinvent themselves.   Some are changing course to do work with a purpose that they believe in, or starting businesses that help the planet and the people who live here.  When industrialist Ray Andersen realized his carpeting company Interface was polluting the world for his grandkids, he had a “spear in the chest moment” and took his life and his company in a whole new direction to become leaders in sustainability.   Some people have faced the ultimate challenge, coming face to face with death and returning forever changed by the experience. While many of these people lost a great deal through illness or accident I’m struck by how grateful these people are for every day. Many view their brush with death as a gift even because it opened the door to take the path they never dared to before, reinventing their lives to become filled with new purpose and committed to helping others.   Mel Brake worked for a large computer company for many years in sales and marketing, working hard to get ahead. Maybe too hard. The work was relentless as month after month and year after year he constantly pushed to meet sales quotas. Plagued by the stress, he developed a pain in his neck and back so severe he wished he could die just to make it go away. And then early one morning as he lay in his bed in pain, it seemed as if he did.  He closed his eyes and saw a door open and he found himself traveling to a place beyond this life, a place that was dark and calm. There he felt a presence that let him know that all would be well and when he returned to his body and his home, his pain subsided.  In the weeks moving forward Mel took his life in a new direction, working with troubled kids with the MPW (Mel’s Poetry Works) Foundation he created to help these kids find their voice through the arts and show them that they matter, that their voice deserves to be heard.   Dr. Nicole Eastman was driven to succeed in everything she did, letting nothing stand in her way. As a Type A personality, she was in complete control, always pushing herself to do more. When her father died of a stroke, it only drove her to work even harder in medical school. Unfortunately not everything was in her control. In December 2010, Dr. Eastman was driving to work in a suburb of Detroit in the first year of her medical residency when a truck rammed into her three times. The car was totaled and the police officers and doctors were surprised that she survived, but she emerged with debilitating pain that dragged her body and her life further and further down. She felt her life falling apart around her and inside her piece by piece, but it was not until she hit bottom that realized she had a life ahead still, that she was not alone, and that her life must have a purpose. From there she started the long climb back up, healing herself and reaching out to help others as well, letting them know they are not alone either.   Alice Chan was a success by most measures, a former award-winning Cornell professor with a nice home in the San Francisco Bay Area, a good marketing job, and a healthy salary, but she wasn’t happy. While her life looked like the picture of success on the outside, she felt empty and lost on the inside. On a trip to Sedona she realized she was not alone and that many others like her go through the same search for purpose, with the same difficulty making the leap toward something new and better. When a truck smashed into her car and her life, it left her unconscious and nearly dead in the hospital, where she felt bathed in a warm loving presence, and knew that everything was just as it needed to be. The accident left a huge scar across her head but set her free to finally pursue her dreams, working to help others overcome their own -fear of transitioning into a new life with a book and workshops she created called REACH.   When I hear the stories of people like these and the great challenges they have overcome, I feel grateful for the many blessings in my life and inspired to do more with the time I have here. As great as our challenges are, the opportunities for all of us to solve these problems is greater. Necessity is the mother of reinvention. We don’t have to wait to almost die to make this change though.  We have the power starting today to begin a new career, a new direction, and a new life, one filled with new meaning. This Thanksgiving we can be grateful for all we are given, including the challenges that force us to grow, reach out, help others, and work together for a better world.


I hope you can tell me your own story about your journey to build a new life and help others as well. You can read more at and contact me at to tell me your story.


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