My favorite meal is Thanksgiving dinner. Turkey, stuffing, gravy, and all the accoutrements make me feel warm and satisfied. When I was a child, my dad’s mom set up folding tables end to end with her dining room table to create one massive table for the whole family to sit together and enjoy Thanksgiving dinner.
Once you were seated, there was no escape until the meal was over because the family/dining room area was long and narrow. Before the meal, a prayer of thanksgiving was offered as we reflected on all the things we truly had to be thankful for. Heaping bowls of homemade coleslaw, succotash and steaming gravy beckoned. We ate until we might burst or drift soundly to sleep on the sofa under one of her colorful crocheted afghans after dinner.
We still have great Thanksgiving meals with the family, now that my sisters and I are the adults who host and cook the meal. I love our holiday meals together, but have been compelled to think about how to put the idea of thanksgiving into action. Thankfulness must not be a passive way of thinking, but a living, moving way of life.
Our family puts thanksgiving into action in a number of ways. They cost little to no money, yet the rewards are rich.
1 – DISCUSS THANKFULNESS: One of the best ways to put thanksgiving into action is to make a purposeful habit of discussing thankfulness with family. Around the dinner table, on the car ride to the store, any everyday place or time will do. Talk to your friends and family about the things you are grateful for. Model thankfulness to your children by telling them what you are thankful about. For me, one of the most important habits is letting people know, especially my children, that I am thankful for them.
2 – GIVE GENEROUSLY: Time and resources are needed all year long, not just at the holidays. While giving of your time as a volunteer or donating goods at the holidays is important, try to make it a family practice at other times of the year also. Volunteer at a food bank, soup kitchen, or nursing home as a family. Donate warm clothing and personal care items to a shelter. Shovel your neighbor’s sidewalk. Live a generous life as a thankful response for your blessings.
3 – REASSIGN FRUSTRATION: Over time, I have consciously purposed to change the way I think about everyday annoyances that may be cause for frustration. I can’t say I’ve perfected the art, but I have made it a “most of the time” way of thinking. For example, when I miss a traffic light or am held back by some circumstance, causing me to run later than I’d like, I consider it a blessing. I ask God in those moments to show me who I may have missed if I had been on time. I thank Him for perhaps preventing me from an accident or some other unpleasantry through my lateness. When my children are on my nerves, I try to stop and remember that there are some people who can’t have children or have lost children and would love the noise and mess of a child.
4 – SHARE YOUR GRATITUDE: Gratitude can be contagious. Use social media to do a post now and then of what you’re grateful for. I like to do a little series of posts in November called #threewordthanks. From November 1st until Thanksgiving, I post a picture on Instagram daily with a three word description. It can be something as silly as “Warm New Pajamas” to the way more important “My Amazing Husband”. Send a letter or card to a friend or coworker who has blessed you, thanking them for how they’ve impacted your life.
5 – QUIT THE COMPLAINING: Admittedly, this can be a difficult one. I find I am most likely to complain at work, where things are often out of my control. However, I am in the process of trying to reel in those complaints and say nothing, rather than adding toxicity to someone else’s day by grumbling and complaining. This is similar to “Reassign Frustration”, but it has more to do with your outward display to the public. Rather than using social media as a platform to complain, use it to “Share Your Gratitude”. Think before you launch into a gripe-fest and consider if you are at risk of robbing others of joy. I am definitely not perfect in this area, but have made strides in keeping my complaints to a lesser level than they once were.
I pray that you have a blessed Thanksgiving Day and pursue thanksgiving as a way of life. Indeed, there is much to be thankful for in this life.