Joyce Bender
CEO of Bender Consulting Services, Inc.

I believe one of the most important traits you should consistently incorporate into your life in 2008 is gratitude. As an example, a great company in America, WellPoint, lists gratitude as the top level of their "mood elevator". When a business person has a spirit of gratitude, WellPoint believes he/she will be in a position to make the best business decisions for the enterprise. It is amazing that the top level trait is not initiative, perseverance, or another important trait - it is gratitude.

People who work with a spirit of appreciation are always so dedicated and so easy to work with. This is so basic, yet so many of us have forgotten that state of being. This holiday season, as you reflect on the past year, I hope that gratitude will be at the top of your list as a way of working and living in the New Year.

Many people have moved into a terrible state called entitlement that is really offensive to so many of us. Those of us in the disability community are so appreciative of a chance to work accompanied by a chance to have good health care benefits. Many people forget what it means to have employment. We do not forget since we live with the highest unemployment rate in the United States; people with significant disabilities are unemployed at a 65% rate. That is a national tragedy.

When you have been left out or excluded from the American dream of employment, you remember gratitude when you get a job. It does not matter who or what the group is today, if they are oppressed and left out, employment means everything.

At one time in your life, maybe you were unemployed. If so, I urge you to "look back in your wagon" and remember what you have today. As you remember, you will be that person who will join our crusade for employment and freedom for all. You will take time to open doors for someone else and/or mentor a person with a disability, who is seeking employment.

Gratitude means you are not the center of the world. Gratitude means you will take time to help others at work or in their personal life. Gratitude builds great leaders.

This year, I would like to list a few tips to remember as you are beginning to plan your year.

Remember to include time for volunteerism in the community. It is so important to give back to others. If you are employed, you need to contact AAPD, the Epilepsy Foundation or some other group and ask them how you can help them. In addition, if you are employed, you can always take time to write a check. One check can make a difference in the life of a young person with a disability. If you are not employed, you absolutely should contact a group and get involved in volunteer work. That is a great way to make contacts and build character. Also, this volunteer work will help with your resume.

2. Gratitude means you will make time to help someone who is unemployed, if you are employed. You can tell your company or agency about the benefits of hiring a person with a disability and work to help someone else find freedom through employment. If you are not employed yet, having a spirit of gratitude will shine through to a prospective employer and will help you get that job.

Gratitude means you will display a good attitude at work at all times. Gratitude shines through by your attitude and it does matter. When you have gratitude at work, it means you are willing to do a little extra, help more and not complain.

Gratitude means you will have patience at all times, which includes when a cashier takes a longer time than normal to give you your change; or when an elderly person is taking a longer time than normal to walk out the door in front of you; or when a new employee who is entry level takes a little longer to learn a new skill. This patience should always include waiting to understand a person who has a speech difficulty and not rushing them in any way.

Gratitude means you will work harder in the New Year to be open-minded to someone different than you. When you operate from a position of gratitude, you do not have the orientation or mind-set to be racist, homophobic or disability unfriendly.

Gratitude means you will work in the New Year to be a better person in this world. Remember that you, one person, can make a difference.

Work this year, to remember you have been given so much more than so many others. Gratitude is the top of the ladder for all great performers.