Thanksgiving is about exactly that, giving thanks. And although its one day a year to reflect on thankfulness and gratitude we all should practice an attitude of gratitude year round.
Thanksgiving is a great time to start. Consider these 10 ideas:
1.Fast from a luxury the week before Thanksgiving. Americans take a lot for granted. We have more material goods than any country in the world. This year, during the week leading up to Thanksgiving, fast from something as a family that you normally take for granted. Choose television, desserts, or even something as basic as pillows. Then break the fast on Thanksgiving Day.
2. Donate personal items to charity. Most children have so many toys that giving away one or two won't make a dent in the toy box. If your family has an overabundance, ask the children to go through their possessions and find at least one item in good condition to give to a local charity. When children actively participate in the process, they not only learn to be thankful for what they have, but they also receive the opportunity to understand personal sacrifice for the sake of others who are less fortunate.
3. Serve at a local homeless shelter or soup kitchen. Prior to Thanksgiving, bring your children to a mission where they can serve the poor. On Thanksgiving Day, discuss your experience.
4. Consider sponsoring a child. Child sponsorship allows your family to financially support a child in a developing country until he or she becomes self-sufficient. This could be personal support for education or health care or it could also mean contributing to the child's community development without directly helping an individual.
5. Encourage children to serve one another first. On Thanksgiving Day, ask your children to serve the meal, taking care of everyone else first and themselves last. If your meal is served buffet style, ask the children to serve drinks and fetch forgotten forks and napkins.
6. Write down five reasons you are thankful for each family member. Many people list reasons for being thankful on Thanksgiving Day, but this suggestion is focused on the members of your family. Not only does this exercise soften hearts of siblings and family members toward one another, it also brings a lot of encouragement.
One creative way to do this is to have everyone pin a sheet of paper on his or her back, and then tell everyone to walk around the room at the same time, writing nice messages on the sheets. These pieces of paper can be read aloud around the table and/or kept as keepsakes.
7. Have each child prepare something for the Thanksgiving meal. It's easy for children to take the Thanksgiving meal for granted. Often Mom and/or Dad slave in the kitchen and dining room, putting everything in order for guests while children run around or watch TV. This year, ask each child to contribute to the meal as a service to the family. Older children can follow recipes and create a special dish, while younger children can stir vegetables, boil noodles, or butter bread.
8. Read Thanksgiving: A Time to Remember, by Barbara Rainey, to your children. This beautiful book, outlining the plight of the Pilgrims, can become a wonderful family tradition in your home during Thanksgiving.
9. Review your own family history. The Pilgrims weren't the only ones to lay down their lives in order that the rest of us might have freedom and prosperity. Many of us have a family history full of personal sacrifice. Perhaps your ancestors were immigrants from another country, brought over as slaves, or fought in wars against dangerous enemies. Take out old photo albums and reminisce about the lives of those who have gone before you.
10. Be a living example to your children. The best way to teach your children to have a heart of thanksgiving and service is to be a living example. Through your example, your children will see what it means to have a true living, breathing relationship with friends and family and come to produce fruits of thanksgiving and service of their own.