Insurance Update
November  2016
Issue No. 74
In this issue

Stumbling toward gratitude 



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Church of the Brethren Benefit Trust Inc.

Church of the Brethren Insurance Services provides the following products: dental, vision, basic life and accidental death & dismemberment, supplemental life and AD&D, dependent life and AD&D, retiree life, long-term disability, short-term disability, and Medicare supplement for eligible Church of the Brethren employees .
Dental, vision, retiree life, and Medicare supplement coverage may also be available for eligible retired Church of the Brethren employees.
For eligibility information, call Connie Sandman at 800-746-1505, ext. 366, or contact your human resources representative.
Medical and ancillary plans (named above) may be available to Brethren-affiliated employer groups.
Long-Term Care Insurance is available for all members of the Church of the Brethren, their family and friends, and employees of Church of the Brethren-affiliated agencies, organizations, colleges, and retirement communities. 

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How can you keep a holiday from becoming a cliché? Thanksgiving comes perilously close -- with its turkey and trimmings, its stories of pilgrims and Native Americans, its pro football games, its Macy's parade, its Black Friday, its admonitions to be thankful in the midst of and maybe in spite of all this. And how many times have preachers and writers and others who pontificate tried to break through this "cliché" reality and say something new and moving -- something that gets to the heart of this holiday?
Why should we hope that through an issue of Insurance Update we can do what is so difficult to accomplish? Because in trying to avoid either cliché or forced creativity, we offer you a straightforward essay on gratitude -- what it is and what researchers have found out about it.
Here in November, now that (for many) the leaves have changed and we are all turning fully toward the holiday season, we hope the words and ideas in this issue show you the presence and power of gratitude, and remind you that being grateful is a benefit for many reasons - not only at Thanksgiving but all year long.

A contagious emotion

"When it comes to life," wrote G. K. Chesterton, turn-of-the-twentieth-century English author and critic, "the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude." Do you assume that the elements of your life have been produced by your own efforts and are therefore deserved? Or do you believe that they have been produced by the efforts of many others and have a mysterious goodness behind them? Do you see your life as humdrum and prosaic, or do you greet it with deep appreciation?
These questions assume a kind of attitude of gratitude. The word and the idea are as old as language, but it's only been in recent decades that researchers have begun to study gratitude. For a long time, psychologists and philosophers before them have been studying depression and mental illness, but in the middle of the 20th century scientists began to study positive emotions, and a discipline called "positive psychology" was born. There are some revealing studies on how gratitude contributes to physical and psychological health, how it strengthens relationships, builds self-esteem, enhances empathy, reduces aggression, and even helps you sleep better.
It's obvious
There is an odd thing about these studies -- they seem to confirm the obvious. In a study by Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, Davis, and Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami, participants were divided into three groups. One group was asked each week for nine weeks to write five things they were grateful for. The second group was asked each week to write five things that hassled them. The third group was asked each week to write five things that had impact on them. The study showed that those who recorded their gratitude felt better about their lives, looked forward to the coming week with more optimism, reported fewer physical complaints, and spent more time exercising. These results are not surprising. Of course people who nurture their gratitude do better. Study after study reaches this conclusion. So what is gratitude?
It's not about you
Someone outside of yourself does something for you or gives you something, and you feel gratitude. You can't really be grateful to yourself. It's true that you can be glad for your own good actions. For instance, you can be pleased that you use good sense, or you work hard to earn a good salary, or you stand up for your convictions. But there is something missing here. Your attention is self-referenced. If you did it, there is no gift in it. It's about you. Gratitude is the response to something that comes as a gift from the outside.
So what happens to you when you are the recipient of a gift? Well, for one thing you do not control the moment. You are at the "mercy" of or "pleasure" of or subject to the "graciousness" of another. For some people this is hard. They want to control the ebb and flow of their lives. This is why some people are not good at receiving gifts. But if you are open to the gift, some good things follow. One of them may be surprise, because you were not expecting anything or for anything to happen.
The glue of community
Further, a gift reminds you that you are not alone. Someone else cares about you. We're talking here not just about special gifts but also simple, everyday acts like someone showing consideration for your busy schedule or remembering to ask about the illness of a loved one. When you are grateful, you affirm that you are connected to other people and that you need them. Gratitude is one of the glues of community.
It's almost too obvious to note, but a person who is radiating gratitude has an immediate, positive, and uplifting effect on a group of people. There may be cynics who will pooh-pooh someone with a grateful spirit and say the person doesn't see "reality," or is a "Pollyanna," but there is no getting away from the fact that genuine gratitude in such a person is contagious. There are few emotions more irresistible than a sudden exclamation of delight.
In 2010, two scholars, Adam M. Grant of the University of Pennsylvania and Francesca Gino of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, published a study titled "A Little Thanks Goes a Long Way: Explaining Why Gratitude Expressions Motivate Pro-social Behavior." In the first experiment, participants were asked to help a student with a job application cover letter and then were asked to edit a second letter, which they were more willing to do if they were thanked for editing the first one. Both the first and second request and the thank you were all done by email. The second experiment, also by email, demonstrated that participants were more likely to help a second student with a job application cover letter if the first student thanked them. In the third experiment, Grant and Gino demonstrated that a group of university fundraisers made more fundraising calls if the director of annual giving thanked them for their work. In the fourth experiment, participants who edited the cover letter were visited personally by the student. Those who were thanked were more likely to edit a second cover letter than those with whom the student just discussed the weather. All four of these experiments confirm what we would have expected -- that gratitude "motivates pro-social behavior."
A strength and a virtue
For many years, psychologists, psychiatrists, and social workers depended on resources called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and the International Classification of Diseases to document and classify illness and dysfunction. Then one of them realized that they were describing and measuring only what was wrong with people, and not what was right. In other words, they weren't capturing data for people who were happy and living a good life.
So in 2004, a large group of scientists -- many in the area of positive psychology -- created an 815-page resource titled, Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification. It is, as the editors call it, a "Manual of the Sanities."
The dimensions of gratitude
There is a whole chapter in CSV on gratitude. The writers suggest that gratitude is a "warm" feeling, and it is directed toward someone or some larger reality. And gratitude is "appreciation," which means there is gladness and pleasure in the feeling and a sense of rightness and goodness. You might say when it gets right down to it, it's hard to define gratitude, but you know it when you see it, and the reason may be that it is so basic to our human reality. Even an infant shows rudimentary gratitude in its pleasure at being fed, being held, being comforted, and being loved.

Another point CSV makes is that a desire to act flows from this warm appreciation and good will. This may seem less obvious. Can't you just be grateful without doing something? But even the experiments showed that gratitude makes you want to return the gift. Doesn't it sometimes even remind you that you could be more generous? Gratitude is not just a passive reaction; it stirs you to respond.
CSV further observes that a grateful disposition has facets. For some, gratitude is deep and intense. These people seem to live in a reality of gladness and gratefulness. For others, there is a question of frequency. They find many reasons, large and small, for being grateful. Then there is the span of gratitude. For these people, a grateful spirit is directed toward all they meet and no one is exempt. It peppers everyone and everything. They seem to be grateful for all people, things, and events of their life. Finally there is gratitude density, meaning some people sense that behind the obvious person or circumstance that produced the beneficial thing or moment is a larger circle or chain of people and circumstances.
Finally, the depth and intensity of one's gratitude may be shaped by what one knows about the giver or benefactor. If you know that the action or gift came from a deep love, a deeply gracious spirit, or a person of very little means, the gift may mean more and the gratitude may be deeper.
Can it be cultivated?
This brings us to a final question: Can gratitude be cultivated? There are many people who say yes. They will give you good advice. An article in a Harvard University newsletter titled "In Praise of Gratitude," offers these things to do: write thank you notes, thank someone mentally, keep a gratitude journal, count your blessings, pray, and meditate. Writing down the things you are grateful for is a common practice that many people find helpful. It was incorporated into the study cited earlier. But there is probably no better way to cultivate gratitude than by making a habit of saying thank you.
Its own reward -- and more
Many people might say that gratitude has its own reward. Each of us should have a grateful heart because it's the right way to live. But research seems to tell us that it's actually good for us. As we noted earlier, people who keep weekly gratitude journals exercise more regularly, report few physical symptoms, feel better in general about their lives, and are more optimistic. They seem to be more alert, enthusiastic, determined, attentive, and have more energy. They are more likely to help someone or offer emotional support. They are less likely to be depressed. They are even less likely to deny or ignore the negative aspects of life. They acknowledge the interconnectedness of life and tend to be more committed to and responsible for others. They are less prone to judge themselves and others on the basis of material success and more willing to share what they have. They are more open, more conscientious, and less neurotic. Studies seem to suggest that gratitude is correlated to changes in the cardiovascular and immune systems. Finally, grateful people might actually live longer.
So when you gather around the table this year at Thanksgiving, look around at your family and at the rich spread on the table, look back over the year, look inside yourself, look forward to the year ahead. Not everything you see will be good or welcome, but find the things that are, and think about them. For that moment, celebrate them. Look at the people in your life and instead of seeing their shortcomings be glad for their good qualities. For that moment and maybe for longer, you will become a better, nicer person; the world will look better and brighter, and you might even improve your health and lengthen your life.
Time to consider two NEW insurance products from Brethren Insurance Services
Voluntary Critical Illness Insurance is coverage for many of the costs associated with treating a critical illness (cancer or heart failure, for example). It covers things like lost income, co-pays, deductibles, living expenses, and even transportation to and from treatment.
Accident Insurance is coverage for the extra costs that are incurred when you have a car or bicycle accident, a sidewalk slip, or an accident in your home, etc. This insurance gives you an additional level of coverage and security for those things not covered by your primary medical insurance -- like time off work, deductibles, child-care expenses, even minor things like over-the-counter medicines and bandages. And the good news is, coverage (up to a certain amount) is guaranteed for eligible employees, with no underwriting as long as you sign up during the enrollment period.

Open Enrollment Nov. 1 - 30
Planning for proper coverage is so important. Don't miss this opportunity to step up to the plate and get the insurance you need during Open Enrollment.

In addition to Voluntary Critical Illness and Accident, here is a summary of the other insurance products offered to eligible employees through Brethren Insurance Services.
Dental:  Choose from one of three dental plan options for you or your family. These plans can cover checkups and other preventive services, as well as fillings, oral surgery, and orthodontia. This coverage is offered in partnership with Delta Dental of Illinois.
Vision: Three plan options are available to you and your family through EyeMed Vision Care. These plans offer various levels of coverage for eye exams, lenses, and frames.
Basic Life, Dependent, and Retiree: There are different levels of coverage, between $7,500 and $50,000, determined by age and status.

Supplemental Life:  This insurance is available to members who already have Life insurance coverage through Brethren Insurance Services. This age-rated product is available for up to $50,000 of additional insurance for those who have not yet reached their maximum benefit amount.
Short-Term Disability:  Cover the gap between the onset of disability and the start of Long-Term Disability coverage with Short-Term Disability insurance. This plan will pay up to 60 percent of your salary - up to $1,250 per week.

Long-Term Disability: This gives you the security of continued income in the event of an accident, illness, or injury, with long-term benefits, including 66⅔ percent of your salary, and up to $5,000 a month.

Medicare Supplement: Medicare Supplement insurance can help you pay for some of the health care costs that Medicare Parts A and B do not cover. Copayments, coinsurance, and deductibles for Medicare-approved services are covered by this supplemental product.

Medical:  Open enrollment will take place in November for employees of eligible Brethren Medical Plan groups. Specific details will be provided by your human resources representative just prior to open enrollment.
For eligibility requirements specific to your employer, please contact your employer's human resources representative. For general information, visit .

Check with us at to find rates, options, and enrollment forms for 2017 Open Enrollment. 
Stories of gratitude to touch you and make you think

Here are links to two different and powerful stories of gratitude.
"Just a Crossing Guard"  (approximately 4 minutes)
High school students go to great lengths to show their appreciation for a crossing guard.

A TED Talk by Jennifer Moss.
A selection of quotes on gratitude
"Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God. For the grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience. And that is what makes all the difference."
-- Thomas Merton
"Just an observation: it is impossible to be both grateful and depressed. Those with a grateful mindset tend to see the message in the mess. And even though life may knock them down, the grateful find reasons, if even small ones, to get up."-- Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free

"When we learn to read the story of Jesus and see it as the story of the love of God, doing for us what we could not do for ourselves - that insight produces, again and again, a sense of astonished gratitude which is very near the heart of authentic Christian experience."  -- N.T. Wright
"In ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich."
-- Dietrich Bonhoeffer

"I have been finding treasures in places I did not want to search. I have been hearing wisdom from tongues I did not want to listen. I have been finding beauty where I did not want to look. And I have learned so much from journeys I did not want to take. Forgive me, O Gracious One; for I have been closing my ears and eyes for too long."
-- Suzy Kassem, Rise Up and Salute the Sun: The Writings of Suzy Kassem

"When you practice gratefulness, there is a sense of respect towards others." -- Dalai Lama
"Some people grumble that roses have thorns; I am grateful that thorns have roses." -- Alphonse Karr

"Be thankful for what you have; you'll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never, ever have enough."
-- Oprah Winfrey
"Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn't learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn't learn a little, at least we didn't get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn't die; so, let us all be thankful."
-- The Buddha

"In the end, though, maybe we must all give up trying to pay back the people in this world who sustain our lives. In the end, maybe it's wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices." -- Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love
Brain Puzzles
We hope you are enjoying our new addition to Insurance Update -- monthly BRAIN PUZZLES -- just for fun!

The missing dollar

Three friends were staying at a motel. They paid the motel manager $30 for the room, so each friend put up $10. A little while later the manager realized the room was only $25, so he sent the bellboy back to the room with $5. On the way to the room the bellboy couldn't figure out how to split the $5 evenly among the three people, so he gave each one of them $1 and he kept the other $2.

This meant that the three of them paid $9 each for the room for a total of $27. Add the $2 that the bellboy kept = $29.

Where did the other dollar go?

Boat puzzle

At the local model boat club, four friends were talking about their boats.

There were a total of eight boats, two in each color, red, green, blue and yellow. Each friend owned two boats. No friend had two boats of the same color.

Alan didn't have a yellow boat. Brian didn't have a red boat, but did have a green one. One of the friends had a yellow boat and a blue boat and another friend had a green boat and a blue boat. Charles had a yellow boat. Darren had a blue boat, but didn't have a green one.

Can you work out which friend had which colored boats?

Click here for the answer.

 LTCILong-Term Care Insurance
Brethren Insurance Services offers Long-Term Care Insurance
Eligibility for long-term care insurance benefits is determined by the inability to meet at least two of these six activities of daily living -- bathing, eating, dressing, toileting, continence, or transferring. Cognitive impairment can also trigger benefits.
It's difficult to think about the fact that a debilitating condition or a disabling injury might leave you unable to care for yourself, or that when you reach your twilight years, the time will come when you will need some extra care. Long-term care insurance makes sure that you will get the care you need. It assures that the cost of your custodial care will not eat up your savings. Finally, and this is one of the best things about LTCI, it can help protect your children and other relatives from having to use their resources to care for you.
Brethren Insurance Services offers Long-Term Care Insurance for all members and employees of the Church of the Brethren and their family and friends; and also for employees of Church of the Brethren-affiliated agencies, organizations, colleges, and retirement communities and their families and friends.
If you are interested in obtaining this coverage, contact Brethren Insurance Services at or 800-746-1505 for a free, no-obligation proposal or  click here to request more information.