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Pay it forward this week

By Donna Brazile, CNN Political Contributor
  • Donna Brazile says the best way to feel better about life is to be of service to others
  • A soldier's talk of sacrifices put annoyances into perspective, she says
  • Brazile couldn't maintain her frustration with TSA when she thought about those who serve
  • Americans need to help those in need and feel thankful for what they have, she says

Editor's note: Donna Brazile, a Democratic strategist and CNN political contributor, is vice chairwoman for voter registration and participation at the Democratic National Committee, a nationally syndicated columnist and an adjunct professor at Georgetown University. She was manager for the Gore-Lieberman presidential campaign in 2000 and wrote "Cooking With Grease: Stirring the Pots in American Politics."

(CNN) -- This week, as family and friends gather to give thanks for so many blessings, let us also remember to be of service.

As I completed another round of travel across the country, I came across men and women in uniform traveling home to see their loved ones. One man I had the honor to sit beside was a volunteer in the National Guard on his way home to Lincoln, Nebraska, for a few days before heading back to Afghanistan.

While catching up on the latest college football scores, we talked about what was going on overseas. He shared stories of his travels, his responsibilities in Afghanistan, his previous tour in Iraq and thoughts about his upcoming tour. Before our plane landed, he talked about the new TSA airport screening safety measures and procedures. Then he showed me something on his right hand.

It was a metal band in honor of one of his friends who died in combat. He wears it daily as a reminder of his friend's sacrifice. But, as we began to discuss going through the security checkpoints at U.S. airports, he informed me that the wristband had to come off.

This young man said, "I don't mind removing it. I just fear that I will lose it or will break it." As he showed it to me, all the anger and remorse I felt over the new TSA procedures of putting us through those new magnetic scanners or the invasive patdowns began to disappear. I couldn't maintain my frustration with something as minor as the hassles of an airport when this man willingly sacrificed his own safety to help our security.

So in honor of this young, brave, gentle soldier who spent one hour bringing me into his world, I say thank you -- for your sacrifice and service to our country. And to his friend and those we mourn, we will not forget your courage.

Over the years, I've realized the best way for me to feel better about my life and my circumstances is to be of service to others. Having a purpose, especially one of service like that young man in uniform, is critical for our emotional well-being. It is good for our community and ultimately for our country.

By serving, we not only enrich our lives but the lives of others. And it doesn't have to be confined to those "less fortunate," because anyone will do. Any cause greater than oneself is a cause worth supporting for the common good of our country.

By serving, we not only enrich our lives but the lives of others.
--Donna Brazile

Starting this week, please go out and help someone. Bring fresh food or canned vegetables or meat to a local food bank. Take extra blankets or clothing to a local shelter. Bring toiletries to a local facility serving the homeless. This will make you feel better, I promise.

Many applaud America for its riches, and they are considerable, but its volunteerism is even greater.

Although our Gross Domestic Product matters, we grow richer with every volunteer who tutors at a school. With every coach teaching athletics and life lessons, our country gets a little stronger. With every person who donates canned goods, volunteers at the local food pantry or soup kitchen, brings food in to ease a neighbor's hunger, we become a little more like the country we aspire to be.

There's money, and then there's the real richness of a nation. It's for that richness that I am hopeful and, in this Thanksgiving season, forever thankful.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Donna Brazile.