Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.          Melody Beattie

As I write this, Thanksgiving is over and the Holiday Season has begun.  I am searching for a perspective to hold all of the emotions and events from this noteworthy time in our history.  How do we make sense of this year?  For perspective, I often look back at the seasons in my life.  Some of those I barely endured and some I savored.  Through my life, maintaining perspective has given me hope and even excitement about what was to come.

If each of us is honest with ourselves, most would say we’ve had seasons that were more difficult than others.  Divorce or other personal issues, illness, financial situations, career disappointments, emotionally wrenching periods … Are these part of the human condition?

During one particularly tough season in my life, a gratitude journal found its way into my hands.  There were 365 pages with an inspirational quote at the top and 5 blank lines.  My task each day was to fill those 5 lines with something I was grateful for.  Some days my entry was simply “The day is over” or “I have a bed to sleep in”.  I was grateful as the days became easier.  At the end of that year, I had a much brighter perspective on my life, recognizing the big and small blessings that my life holds every day.  Following that year, I wanted to bring my experience of gratitude into my community.  I added “What are you grateful for today?” to my email signature.  For over 20 years I’ve sent emails with that question above my signature line.  I get so excited when the recipient replies to tell me what they are grateful for in their life.  Today I reflect on my past and am personally grateful for these basic gifts:

  1. I am alive
  2. I am safe
  3. I am healthy
  4. I am loved by family and friends
  5. I can choose my attitude

Our Nation is coming out of a painful season in our history.  The combination of stress-filled events became overwhelming: global Coronavirus crisis, economic impacts of Shelter-In-Place orders, adjustments required to continue work, school and health care in a remote setting, inequities exacerbated by circumstances seemingly out of our control, unprecedented natural disasters across the country, social justice conflicts, and a divisive and controversial election.  These frayed even the calmest of nerves.  As we watch the transfer of power in the Administration, I find myself thankful for 5 things:

  1. America is governed by a Democratic System
  2. My vote counts
  3. I have freedom of speech
  4. I can express my views to elected officials
  5. I can choose my attitude

The Sonoma Co Alliance faced its share of challenges this year with a Presidents message that put the spotlight on the need for diversity in not just our organization, in all organizations.  We acknowledged the offense that was experienced by the community.  We listened to members as well as community to become aware of perceptions.  We accepted their feedback without defending or justifying ourselves.  And then we committed to improve our image.  We read books and articles, watched podcasts, movies and news.  We heard the experience of many who feel marginalized in our society.  We listened to learn and we took inventory, both personally and as an organization.  Our Organization/Board Development Task Force as well as our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force did amazing work and made recommendations for change.  We embrace these changes and are prepared to move forward with new leadership and an updated Strategic Plan.  Today I am grateful for these 5 things:

  1. We are a membership organization that is alive and well
  2. Our members stand behind our view that a healthy economy supports a healthy environment and community
  3. We have loyal, dedicated and involved members who have years of community leadership experience
  4. We have members who want to become the next generation of leaders and are excited about that possibility
  5. We can choose our attitude

Though the year 2020 has been very difficult for so many people, there have been some bright spots.  We connected to others as we walked our neighborhoods. We appreciated the local workers whose daily sacrifice put food on our tables, gas in our cars, and kept our financial institutions running.  Essential workers fought fires and health pandemics so we could be safe.  Perhaps we were able to slow down enough to appreciate people as individuals with their own lives and struggles.  At the end of 2020 I find myself grateful for these things:

  1. This year is almost over and we will start fresh in the 2021 New Year
  2. Vaccines appear close at hand
  3. Families spent more time together enjoying home and outdoor recreation
  4. We became familiar with remote technologies that add options for in-person meetings
  5. We can choose our attitude

I thank you so much for your continued support of the Sonoma County Alliance.  With your help, we will continue to advocate for small business and their local jobs.  We will continue to work together with our elected officials to promote a healthy economy.  Our committees will continue their work to dig deeper into issues affecting the quality of life in Sonoma County.  Please consider joining a committee to add your voice to this important conversation.  We need one another!

Best wishes for a wonderful Holiday Season filled with health, love and laughter.  We look forward to seeing you in the New Year!

What are you grateful for today?

Marlene Soiland, President

Sonoma County Alliance


I don’t have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness – it’s right in front of me if I’m paying attention and practicing gratitude.                                 Brene Brown