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From the President: #ItOnlyTakesOne

By Dan Cardinali Nov. 25, 2015

After 15+ years at Communities In Schools, I still get a rush every time someone approaches me to say, “I was a CIS kid years ago, and my site coordinator changed my life forever.”

At CIS, those are the kinds of comments that keep us going during difficult or frustrating times. It’s always surprising how two little words like “thank you” can be such a source of energy and encouragement.

But this is Thanksgiving season, so we here at CIS want to focus on saying thanks, rather than hearing it. From psychology to neuroscience, there’s a lot of recent research showing that when it comes to a “thank you,” it truly is more blessed to give than to receive. To site just a few examples:

  • Grateful people have lower blood pressure and stronger immune systems.
  • Grateful people recover more quickly after a heart attack.
  • Grateful people have stronger relationships.
  • Grateful people experience less depression.

The best news is that gratitude seems to be a learned behavior, so even if you’re not naturally grateful, you can develop that “gratitude muscle” by conscientiously counting your blessings and saying “thank you.”

Here’s a great way to start: Our social media team here at CIS is asking alumni and students to publicly thank that one special adult who made a lasting difference in their lives through a hashtag campaign. The responses are so inspirational and we want to open the social media campaign up more widely. We’re calling this campaign #ItOnlyTakesOne, because we want to emphasize the huge difference that one person can make by investing in the life of one other.

Outside of my own family, I always say that it was an elevator repairman in the South Bronx who instilled in me a vision for serving others. Tony Dalton had been a hard-living younger man, but a mission trip to Haiti changed everything. He came back home, gave away everything he owned, moved into a church rectory and started an after-school program in one of the toughest neighborhoods of New York City.

I got to know Tony after my freshman year in college, when I was doing a public service project in his neighborhood. By that time, Tony had built an amazing youth center in the middle of a vast housing project, and he served as a father figure for literally hundreds of kids who showed up each day.

The more I worked with Tony, the more I came to admire him—not just for the work he was doing, but also the way that he went about it. As a union mechanic, Tony could have funded the work himself, but that would have made him an outsider swooping in to help a bunch of “poor kids.” Instead, he literally chose to become poor himself in order to engage more authentically with the community and co-create a program in which everyone would have a stake.

Tony’s approach to community action was a revelation to me, and it has informed almost everything that I’ve done professionally in the ensuing 30 years. So thank you, Tony Dalton, for taking the time to invest in an eager young kid and showing me a better way to make a difference in the world. #ItOnlyTakesOne.

If you’d like to thank “the one” who changed your life, please do so in a Tweet or Facebook or Instagram post and add the hashtag #ItOnlyTakesOne and #MyOneToThank. Thank you for your thankfulness!