Getting Better All the Time

Making the Most of the Gift We Receive Every Day

By James F. Gesualdi

To keep ahead, each one of us, no matter what our task, must search for new and better methods—for even that which we now do well must be done better tomorrow.
—James F. Bell

Every day is a gift.
—Sign Smarts at Long Island Holistic, Babylon, Long Island, New York

Today is a gift I honor by fully living it.
—Mary Anne Radmacher

Live in the present.
Do all the things that need to be done.
Do all the good you can each day.
The future will unfold.
—Peace Pilgrim

Every Day, Including This One, Is a Gift. Be Thankful!

We live our entire life in the present moment. Moment by moment. Day by day. We live, love, and work—work to more fully express and improve ourselves—one moment and one day at a time. That is the reality of the life we lead.

Oftentimes, we lose sight of the preciousness of these moments and days. Perhaps that occurs because of the weight of a yesterday long gone, or an elusive tomorrow yet to materialize. Sometimes the moments and days of our lives themselves may seem too much for us, or we undermine ourselves by giving way to such a perception.

Previous columns have focused on giving thanks—most recently suggesting “Be thankful every day,” adding that experiencing life itself is a good place to begin being grateful. It is easier to do that, to live gratefully and act constructively, knowing that “Every day is a gift.” The greatest of gifts afforded us in this life: a day. This day. Rather than acknowledging this day gratefully, all too often we go about living and “taking care of business” (or “TCB,” as Elvis would say) without consideration of what we have been given.

Remembering that “Every day is a gift” should move us to make the most of the gift of this day. When that remains top of mind, thoughts become more compelling; hands grow stronger and hearts more loving. Such an attitude and its impact on us makes us better people, and better caregivers and stewards.

It is simply amazing that five small words on an unassuming sign placed above an entrance could open the door of our minds to better lives—for ourselves, animals, and others. Remembering those words at the break and close of a day, during the day, and in challenging moments when a day has brought us something not at all resembling a gift, changes us for the better. Those words remind us that even the tough stuff thrown our way this day is something we can find a way through, because we know the day itself—like life itself—is a gift. All we need do is to put it to good use for ourselves, others, and the animals we all love.

Caregivers (and Others) Invest the Gift of This Day and Every Day, Giving of Themselves

Receiving the gift of this day and every day, caregivers make the most of it. The precious gift of this day is reinvested in giving animals (and people, especially in the care of human caregivers) a better and perhaps longer life. This is a most extraordinary gift. Caregivers are among the best at making good use of the gift of this day, every day—and, similarly, giving of themselves in service of animals (and people) renders them alongside the most thoughtful of gift givers.

In addition, let it not be forgotten that there are others in the zoological world giving of themselves for the animals—including educators, facilities engineers, life support and maintenance staff, research personnel, security staff, and the many others contributing to and supporting caring and caregiving for wildlife and wild places. Just thinking the thoughts that manifested in the words preceding this sentence heightened my already sky-high appreciation of caregivers.

A New Holiday: Caregiver’s Day

Decades ago, while I was working as a DJ to modestly help finance graduate and law school, Madonna’s song “Holiday” would always be introduced by saying “every day can be a holiday—especially if you celebrate it [here].” Back then, I may have realized every day can be a holiday, but I was yet to discover the beauty and truth of the words “every day is a gift.” Now (always the only time we ever have), every day can and should be a holiday of sorts. Every day is a gift. Caregivers do amazing and wonderful things with the gift of each day, every day. So, it makes all the sense in the zoological world (and in the rest of our world) that we celebrate and honor caregivers.

Maybe the way to start is by appreciating and thanking caregivers right now. Today. Let’s make use of the gift of this day to thank some of the greatest givers we know. That might even give them a little boost that may come in handy later, when they need to dig deeper to keep on doing the good works that the animals and the rest of us depend upon.

Giving the Holidays and the Coming Year Greater Meaning: Take the Animal Well-being Challenge

The recently released Association of Zoos and Aquariums Animal Welfare Task Force’s Strategic Framework for the Wellbeing of Animals represents a landmark effort—a new beginning for the zoological community. Follow-up actions, appointments, and efforts promise to be good for animals, and that is good for everyone. Many of those things will take time, and the results will take longer.

Good things are worth waiting for, but we can do even more starting today. Review the Strategic Framework, and get together within your organization. Then, decide what you can do—now—to improve even just a single animal’s life, or all your resident animals’ lives. Next September 1, send a brief summary of your great work in making animals’ lives better, and we can share that in this column to mark the first anniversary of the Strategic Framework.

Surely, within the zoological community—comprised of outstanding organizations with dedicated caregivers—we can do even more to uphold our moral responsibility to the animals (stated in “The Why” section of the Strategic Framework), without waiting for anything outside of ourselves and our organizations. It is up to you. That’s a great responsibility, and having to shoulder that means you have the power to keep getting better all the time—now!

The Gift of the Day, Giving, and Challenges to Give More

Thank you to the SDZWA Academy, especially Beth Ingram and the outstanding editorial and production team who work so hard to help make these words more compelling every day. They are great givers of themselves in the way they invest this day. Thank you to anyone reading this (beyond and including my Mom). Your good work and good works, in whatever endeavor, and your kind feedback keep me going. And thank you to the animals who inspire us all, especially Memphis and Little Bit.

All the best for a meaningful and peaceful holiday season. May you have a fulfilling new year marked by greater advances for animals’ interests, protection, and well-being, and may it be full of loving kindness.

One of the most beautiful ways you can give is giving of yourself and your time.
—Mark Boyle

In giving of yourself, you will discover a whole new life full of meaning and love.
—Cesar Chavez

The greatest use of a life is to spend it on something that will outlast it.
—William James

To all the caregivers who have made this column possible, especially Andrea Huggler (who puts all her heart into this calling) and the Long Island Holistic team, and Anneliese Feige, R.N., and Alicia Tufano, both of Northwell Health, for their extraordinary assistance time and again.

© 2022 James F. Gesualdi, P.C. The opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author. This is not, nor should it be construed as, legal advice.