In the days to come, many of us will be spending time with friends and family and eating far more than our bellies can handle.
By definition, the impending holiday is a time to reflect on the things in life we value the most. But how many of us actually sit down and think, I mean really think, about what we’re most thankful for during this time of year? The hustle and bustle of the season can often cause a distraction and lead us astray from focusing on what Thanksgiving is all about.
Even if you do have enough internal discipline to keep your mind focused on the most precious points of gratitude, do you take any action to express your appreciation? Do you simply think, or do you “do?”
This Thanksgiving, I encourage you to take the extra step. Instead of just acknowledging what you’re thankful for, turn those feelings into action by giving back in a way related to whatever it is you hold dear. Begin by jotting down your List of Thanks. Similar to prepping for exams back in the college days, transferring these pieces of gratitude from your mind to the paper will force you to dig deep and put genuine thought behind your selections, rather than just rattling off generic terms about the dinner table. Then, think about how you can physically show your appreciation for each item on the list.
Here are some ideas to help get you started:
If you’re thankful for your friends and family:
Hug them. Tell them. Make sure they know how much they’re loved. Capture the moment in a photo. Any day could be our last, or the last time we ever see the ones we love, so don’t take any moment for granted.
If you’re thankful for your health and the health of your loved ones:
Remember those that aren’t so lucky. Choose a health-related non-profit, such as Susan G. Komen or ALS Association, and make a donation. Alternatively, make a commitment to participate in an organized walk or run during the next year. Volunteer at a children’s hospital (check the website of your local hospital).
- Join the walk to end Alzheimer’s: http://act.alz.org/site/PageServer?pagename=walk_homepage
- Give an individuals with physical, intellectual and developmental disabilities the experience the exhilaration of running in a race by providing them an adaptive stroller and a team of runners to support them: https://www.facebook.com/InclusiveRacing/info/?tab=page_info
If you’re thankful for those who keep our country safe:
The sad reality is that many of the men and women who defend our country won’t get to spend the holidays with their families. Explore ways to give back to them this holiday season, demonstrating your gratitude for the sacrifices they make. Though it won’t make up for not being home to open presents or experience the joy of watching their loved ones doing the same, even the slightest bit of joy could help morale. There are several organizations that send Christmas cards to the troops or stores that allow you to purchase candy bars for them at the register.
- Mail heroes a holiday greeting card through American Red Cross’ Holiday Mail for Heroes: http://www.redcross.org/support/get-involved/holiday-mail-for-heroes
- Adopt a warrior family: http://ableforces.org/highlights/2014/10/14/adopt-a-warrior-family-for-christmas.html
- Sponsor a Christmas Box for soldiers on deployment or sponsor a wreath for a Veteran’s grave: http://www.operationcarepackages.org/Christmas/SendSantaToTheTroops.html
If you’re thankful for the feast you’re about to devour:
Be sure to think about those that don’t know where their next meal will come from. Volunteer at a soup kitchen. Deliver meals to the poor or elderly. Participate in a food drive.
- Deliver Meals on Wheels: http://www.mealsonwheelsamerica.org/
- Find your local food bank: http://www.feedingamerica.org/find-your-local-foodbank/?referrer=https://www.google.com/
If you’re thankful for your pets:
First, give them a little love. Then, look for ways to help out the animals that aren’t fortunate enough to have a loving home. Volunteer at a dog shelter or make a donation to your local SPCA. Think about adoption. Or, for something more temporary, check our Dogs on Deployment, an organization that places dogs in foster homes while their owners are serving our country.
- Foster a pet through Dogs on Deployment: https://www.facebook.com/DogsonDeployment/
- Donate time or money: aspca.org
If you’re thankful for your job:
Pay gratitude to the people that helped to get you there. Send your first hiring (or favorite) manager or mentor a note thanking them for the early lessons they taught you. Repay the help you received by offering advice to college students or young professionals. Become a mentor. Tutor students from a local high school.
If you’re thankful for being free from financial burden:
Share what you have with those who don’t have as much. Adopt an angel through Project Angel Tree where you buy gifts for children in poverty or with parents in prison. Collect items for Toys for Tots. Reach out to a local retirement home and ask if they’re accepting donations for residents. Consider giving items or a monetary donation to victims of the South Carolina floods; last week we met with the LISC who said many families are just getting back into their homes finally learning what they lost after the flood devastation. Donations are still desperately needed.
If you’re thankful for your children:
Remember the children that don’t have loving, safe homes like yours. Volunteer at your local children’s home. Give donations to a women’s shelter – often the only safe haven for women and children in dangerous situations. Seek out organizations that provide support for foster children like Mercy for America’s Children, a North-Carolina based non-profit organization advocating on behalf of children awaiting adoption in the US Foster Care System.