When we think about Thanksgiving, the first thoughts that swirl through our minds tend to be thoughts about food and family. Those are wonderful thoughts that we should hold dear, however, I would like to propose an expansion of those memories beyond food and fun with family.
History tells us that in 1620 the Pilgrims came to New World looking to be free from religious persecution. The first winter was brutal leaving them riddled with disease and malnourished. Some of the Pilgrims came ashore for respite. They, in turn, met Abenaki, an English-speaking Native American. He then introduced them to Squanto, a Native American of the Pawtuxet tribe who had been kidnapped by an English sea captain and sold into slavery before escaping to London and returning to his homeland on an exploratory expedition (https://www.history.com/topics/thanksgiving/history-of-thanksgiving). Squanto helped the Englishmen survive and thrive by teaching them what they needed to know as well as helping them form an alliance with another local tribe. The next year, the colonist were able to produce a successful corn harvest. Therefore, the governor William Bradford organized a feast and invited their allies, chief Massasoit of the Wampanoag. Though the celebration was not called “Thanksgiving” or may not have even intended to be a tradition, what remains is the spirit of thanks and giving back despite circumstance.
No matter how you celebrate Thanksgiving or if you celebrate it at all, what you can do is give thanks and give back. So, I would like to help you by giving you 30 days and thirty ways to give back in the month of November. This is a two-part series so make sure you come back for part two!
Day 1. Write a thank you note to a different person every day for this month
Day 2. Pay it forward. Whether it be a cup of coffee, lunch, gas, a movie, etc. make someone’s (or more than one person’s) day by paying it forward and hopefully it will encourage them to do the same!
Day 3. Out with the old, in with the new. If you like to have your children make Christmas list, have them make a giving list too. What can they give away? Many times we have gently used toys and clothes that can go to good use and this would be a good way to get our little ones and us to start thinking about others in need.
Day 4. Spend time with the elderly. If you have elderly family members, neighbors, or people at the local nursing home who you know do not get visits regularly, make them a priority.
Day 5. Volunteer for suicide prevention hotline. Around this time there is an increase of depression and suicidal ideation, you can be the light in someone’s darkness by volunteering at a suicide hotline where you can learn helpful skills to help someone reconsider life. There are many wonderful organizations, one is https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
Day 6. Organize a food drive for the less fortunate. You can do this through your school, church or any other organization you are affiliated with. You can then choose a charity in which to donate. This is another great way to make connections.
Day 7. Get involved with Habitat for Humanity. What better gift than to give someone a new home, especially one they can help build!
Day 8. Buy a certain amount of gift cards and pass them out randomly, smile and say thank you. The person may be bewildered, however, you certainly both will feel grateful in the end.
Day 9. Make blessing bags to pass out to the homeless. These bags that have the basics that homeless people need to survive on the streets. You can do them in bulk and pass them out at one time or keep a few in your car and pass them out as needed. There are many websites where you can get ideas, this one gives you a printable checklist and step by step directions to make the blessing bags, https://www.thriftynorthwestmom.com/blessing-bags-assemble-bags-keep-hand-need/.
Day 10. For those who like social media, post a prayer of thanks every day for 30 days. Watch what it does for the people around you, even virtually and for yourself!
Day 11. Offer to give someone who is a full-time caregiver a break. Giving them that time for self is a very special and much needed gift that they may not feel they can ask for, so be kind and offer it to them.
Day 12. Write a letter of thanks to our soldiers that are active duty. Take a few minutes to let them know how much their service means to you even if you do not agree with the war or the politics they are fighting for. You can send your letter, make a care package or a myriad of other things by checking out this site, https://www.operationgratitude.com.
Day 13. Don’t forget our veterans. Go to your local VA and see what service you can be to those who have already been of such great service to you!
Day 14. Get involved with a marathon. You may not be able to walk or run a 5k, however, you may be able to volunteer with set up, raising money, getting runners water or something else. Find a cause you are passionate about and find out what you can do to help.
Day 15. Give back one of your skills. What are your special talents? Are you a baker, a leader, a numbers person, a singer, dancer? Whatever your special skill is, find a way to utilize it and share it with your family, friends, and/or community. If you are a singer, put on a special concert for your family. If you’re an accountant, offer a one-time, pro bono service to someone in need. There are many ways we can use what we already have to give to others.
Remember, you do not have to attempt all, of these, just do what you can. It’s about the spirit of giving and doing it with a heart full of thanks!
By: Garcsa Brooks
Intern, Olive Branch Counseling Associates, Inc.