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The awards — and rewards — of gratitude

We lived immersed in a culture of contests and competitions. From the prestigious Nobel Prizes to the Latin Grammys; from the Teacher of the Year in the school system to the shapeliest girl in the Miss Florida contest, vocation, ability and skill in any line of work are recognized with applause, and sometimes with a monetary award.

On Thanksgiving Day, in the warmth of gratitude that enshrouds my heart, I have realized that the sweet wellspring of awards that bathes us — for the most beautiful, the hardest working, the wealthiest, the most talented, the brightest mind, and even the chubbiest — lacks significant amounts of a prized mineral.

Don’t those who do good deeds for the sake of doing good without expecting any reward in return deserve honors as well?

Ladies and gentlemen! Welcome to the first edition of the Gratitude Awards! These are the winners in the various categories.

The Golden Rule

The winner is ... Arnold Abbott, the nonagenarian who feeds bread and compassion to the homeless and hungry, on the beaches and parks of Fort Lauderdale, despite the city’s drive to put an end to his charitable efforts. Neither the police citations nor the threats of fines or imprisonment cause him to hesitate. They instead fill his heart with encouragement to keep helping others.

Talent in action

The winner is ... Gustavo Briand, the South Beach stylist who, while singing at a piano bar on Karaoke night, decided that instead of spending his time having fun with friends he would charm for beneficial purposes. With a group of neighbors, he founded Charity Angels, an organization that visits children in hospitals and brings them an evening of entertainment and refreshments, allowing them to sing to recorded music.

Exemplary overcoming

The winner is ... Mila Ferrer, the Miami mother who, instead of bewailing her son’s diabetic condition, opted to overcome her family heartache by helping other parents who face similar challenges. In her blog, Jaime, mi dulce guerrero (Jaime, my sweet warrior,) she encourages, with positive messages, those families affected by Type One diabetes and urges them to empower themselves through education and counseling. She is fostering awareness and turning adversity into an exemplary life purpose.

Good Samaritan

The winner is ... Bradley Holt, the Allapattah resident who sacrificed himself to protect some children playing in his neighborhood. Drive-by shootings in Miami-Dade County have extinguished the lives of innocent minors playing outdoors. Upon noticing the erratic behavior of a suspicious driver who prowled the street, the young man attempted to scare him away, for the good of the children. The driver opened fire and shot Bradley in the head. This posthumous distinction is supported by many citizens’ concern over public safety and thankful for Bradley’s laudable valor.

A real lifeguard

The winner is ... Aileen María Marty, an FIU professor of infectious diseases who, despite the risks, fearlessly confronted the Ebola epidemic in the African continent, contributing to establish a system to screen passengers at airports in Nigeria, a country that, thanks to volunteers like her, managed to curtail the spread of the virus. For joining the emergency international effort instead of remaining in the comfort of a classroom or a laboratory, Dr. Aileen is awarded this laurel with the jury’s unanimous approval.

Lights of thought

The winner is ... Eduardo Padrón, president of Miami Dade College, who has promoted universal accessibility to education and culture through the Miami Book Fair International, a treasure of knowledge and reading for people. Under his leadership, the Fair has injected into the community a succulent intellectual flavor more than any other cultural event. The new readers who discover infinite creativity on the pages of books and the new writers who find an open window for the dissemination of their works at the College, award Dr. Padrón this honor.

Genuine maternal love

The winner is ... Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the Congresswoman who, filled with virtue, shared publicly her unconditional love for her transgender son, Rodrigo. Because of her high profile in politics, her honesty and understanding serve as examples for innumerable families caught between prejudice and the exclusion of a loved one. By reminding others that God created all His children alike, with indestructible souls, Ileana earns the thanks of all those blessed by their parents’ acceptance — an indispensable condition for true happiness.

For our winners, a loud ovation, please! May their examples be an inspiration to others. Grateful for them, for United States of America’s forefathers, for our relatives and friends and, above all, for the All-powerful One — that’s how we ought to feel on this Thanksgiving Day. Between bites of turkey and pumpkin pie, count your own blessings and acts of kindness to instantly become a Gratitude Award trophy winner.

Daniel Shoer Roth, El Nuevo Herald’s Metro columnist, is writing the authorized biography of Monsignor Agustín A. Román, the late auxiliary bishop emeritus of the Archdiocese of Miami.

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