Caught in the whirlwind of tasks and responsibilities, it’s easy to overlook the significance of pausing to express gratitude. Maybe it seems trivial, but taking time to acknowledge and appreciate the good things in our lives – not only at Thanksgiving but with consistency – holds profound importance.

Why? Because gratitude is not merely a fleeting emotion; it’s a habit we must practice.

Gratitude is a Practice

It cultivates mindfulness and enriches our overall well-being by redirecting our focus from what’s lacking to what’s present. 

As a company that works at the intersection of some tough and complex issues, we could easily get weighed down by what’s wrong with the system – because there’s plenty of that. However, pausing to appreciate what IS working and the progress that is being made helps foster a sense of abundance. And it can help us feel motivated to get going. 

One of our team’s annual traditions is pausing at Thanksgiving to reflect on the year and what we feel gratitude for, both personally and professionally. 

Here’s what’s on our hearts

Josh Jacobson, CEO

This was a big year for Next Stage, with exciting, career-defining projects that have tended to be more team-based than solo. Working collaboratively brings us together as a team on behalf of our clients and is our preferred way to work, leveraging the expertise of our entire staff. I am grateful to work side-by-side with such talented people who share a common passion for and commitment to social good. And the new year promises to bring additional teammates into the fold, expanding our capacity for impact.       

On the home front, this was a difficult year of loss as we said goodbye to my father-in-law after a series of years of declining health. Losing a loved one makes you appreciate even more the important people in your life. Thankfully, my parents and my mother-in-law live close by so we are able to see each other often. My wife Adara and I cherish time spent with them and with each other – family is really what it is all about.

Haley Rafferty, Team Success Manager

It is fulfilling to listen to what our team needs and deliver on projects to ensure each person has the best working experience possible. I really enjoy being able to work in service to the individuals that make up Next Stage.

Personally, I’m grateful for my health and the health of my family. My husband and I were reminded many times in 2023 to slow down and get some perspective on what is truly important. I’m also grateful that we can continue to open up our home for the people (and animals!) that we love. 

Susan Arrington, Director of Marketing Services

I’m thankful for the StrengthsFinders work we’re doing as a team this year. It’s helped me lean more confidently into what I have to offer as an employee and team member, but even more, it’s helped me understand my co-workers better. I’m also thankful for the deepening trust that’s being established with clients through our long-term marketing engagements.

Personally, I’m thankful for the health of my family and I realize more and more that it’s not something to take for granted. I’m also grateful for the 90s playlists that keep me moving on the Peloton app.  

Helen Hope Kimbrough, Senior Director of Community Voice

As Senior Director of Community Voice, I am grateful to deepen and strengthen our service line in Community Voice, making certain that diverse voices are heard, validated, and understood in our discovery and strategic planning process. I have an opportunity to listen to profound stories and lived experiences centered in wisdom, hope and resilience. It’s a privilege to cultivate trust and collaborate in ‘community’ to move initiatives forward, engage in diversity, equity, and inclusion as essential assets, and collectively impact change together.

Dr. Maya Angelou says, “The horizon leans forward, offering you space to place new steps of change.” This year, my personal challenge was to do more public speaking, champion families, inspire stories, and dance. I’m grateful that I’m in a process of unfolding while trusting my inner spark and pursuing things that matter to me and others. Because of this challenge, I’m evolving into who I’m meant to be.

Janet Ervin, Chief Marketing Officer

I feel so fortunate to interact with so many smart people that are working on some of Charlotte’s most pressing challenges. I’ve learned so much this year about education, housing, health and the justice system – among other things. Most importantly, I’ve had the opportunity to hear a lot of personal stories and I’m grateful for both the chance to hear those experiences and the trust that people place in us – I don’t take it for granted.

Personally, I’m grateful for my family – my husband and two boys. They make me laugh every single day and I enjoy seeing them explore the world.