Giving Thanks Your Own Way
The second to last Thursday of November (aka Turkey Day) doesn’t just signify that Americans in all 50 states will be chowing down and gorging themselves with turkey, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, and broccoli casserole…
Whoa, now I’m hungry and distracted…But, back to the point. You’ve heard it a million times. Thanksgiving is day for reflection on life’s blessings. It’s a day to “give thanks” for the people in your life. And, finally, it’s a time to give back to others who may not be as fortunate. This all sounds familiar, right? I’m sure it does, because this message has been ingrained in our brains since elementary school.
But, how often do we really show our gratitude? If you’re like me, you tend to focus on the stresses and challenges you’re facing as opposed to the good things going on in your life. I know, it’s a problem…I’m working on it!
So, how about we try to make this year different? You’re in? GREAT!
As graduate students, we lack to primary things:
You may be wondering: If we lack TIME & MONEY, how can we show our thankfulness and give back to others?
Let’s talk about some cheap & easy ways to “give thanks” this year:
Make a list of 10 things that you are thankful for RIGHT NOW. They can be profound or extremely basic. Ok, GO:
- My good health
- My Mom and Dad’s love support
- My family both those who are living and those who have passed
- My dependable and loving Boyfriend
- My grad school being paid for
- My friends
- My ability to perform my job as a Hall Director well
- My inner, personal strength
- My pretty comfortable life
- My memories of really good times
How did that feel? I know that I enjoyed coming up with my list, and I suspect that I could have listed about 10 more with some more time. Sometimes just listing the things that we’re thankful for can be cathartic.
You may be asking: Ok, great–so I made a list. How does that convey my thankfulness to others?
WOW! You just have the BEST questions…
2) Identify a few people that you are thankful for & (dun dun dun) LET THEM KNOW IT!
Brilliant idea, I know…
Here are some creative ways to let others know that you are grateful for them:
- Shout it from the Rooftop: Or, you can just verbally tell them how much they mean to you and why you are thankful for them.
- Put it in Writing: This doesn’t have to be a 3-page letter, but it can be! Or, you can write a short-n-sweet note on a post-it. Either way, the sentiment is there. If you want to really impress, handwrite your note & send it via snail mail.
- Give the Gift of Time: Carve in some quality one-on-one time for you and this person. Maybe that means taking the person to lunch or coffee. If you choose this option, you may also want to pick up the tab…It’s just the right thing to do.
- Get on Your Feet: Offer to take over a chore or task for the person that you are thankful for. This is especially applicable for parents. This can be as simple as doing the dishes after Thanksgiving dinner.
- Be Creative: If you have a way with words (or even if you don’t…), write a heartfelt poem. For those crafty people out there, create something to give as as your gift of thanks.
3) Pay it Forward
If you don’t have certain people in mind, but still want to show your gratitude to the world, you can perform small acts of kindness.
It’s the little things that count, so let’s brainstorm some small ways that you can make a difference for someone:
- When you’re getting your morning coffee at Dunkin Donuts, pay for the order of the person behind you.
- For one day, smile and say hello to EVERY person you encounter.
- Offer to go to the grocery store for your elderly neighbor.
- Donate goods or money to a charity of your choice.
- Volunteer at a soup kitchen, orphanage, homeless shelter, VFW, or nursing home.
- Help someone who you know is in need and struggling.
- Buy a meal for the homeless person you pass everyday on your way to work.
These are just some examples, but you get the point. Small acts of kindness can impact others in BIG ways.
4) Use Social Media To Tweet or Post Thanks
I can’t believe I said it, but it’s true. There may be people you’ve lost touch with over the years, but who touched your life in some significant way. Show them that you are grateful for them by posting on their wall or tweeting them a message of thanks. It’s never too late to say thank you…And, in today’s digital world, sometimes social media is the most accessible means of doing so. You can also use social media to post, tweet, or blog about something or someone you appreciate. By publicly professing your thanks, you may be inspiring others to do the same.
5) Stop and smell the roses
You can literally stop and smell the roses, OR you can just stop, observe, and appreciate the beauty around you. The “beauty” can be your family, friends, pets, significant other, or nature. You don’t even have to tell anyone what you’re doing. This can be an internal way of giving thanks. But, I encourage you to share your thanks in some way, shape, or form…
6) Encourage Others to Give Thanks
While showing your own thanks is a great thing to do, it’s even more profound to encourage others to do the same. If you are gathering with friends or family this thanksgiving, use one of these ideas (from Better Homes and Gardens) to facilitate thanks–giving for those around you.
To facilitate the thankful spirit, create gratitude cards using scrapbooking paper and supplies. Cut out cards from scrapbooking papers using decorative-edge scissors and embellish with stamps, stickers, etc. Give the cards to guests before dinner and ask them to write what they are thankful for. As the meal begins to wind down, ask people to share their thoughts.
Light up the table with candle place cards. Wrap a wide strip of patterned paper around a glass candleholder, securing the overlapping ends with double-sided tape. On a narrower strip of complementary paper, write the guest’s name, along with a simple sentence expressing your gratitude. Layer the strip over the patterned-paper strip and secure the overlapping ends with double-sided tape. Insert a candle and light right before dinner.
Spark a discussion about gratitude with these small cards. Print inspirational quotes onto cardstock and cut into rectangles. Place the cards in sleevelike envelopes (available with cardmaking supplies at crafts stores). Add a card to each place setting and have each guest read aloud at the Thanksgiving feast.
Start a Thanksgiving-tree tradition with your family and friends. Assemble the tree before the big day, along with blank paper ornaments. As your guests gather, ask them to write a message of gratitude on an ornament and hang it on the tree.
Craft a paper journal to record a Thanksgiving celebration. Pass the journal among guests to capture their sentiments and memories. Start your own anthology and make a journal each year. When Thanksgiving comes around again, bring out the old journals and reminisce.
These gorgeous ideas are likely a bit too intricate, time-consuming, and pricey for a typical graduate student who, if like me, has about 3 papers to work on. But, they all can be adapted in some way for use at your Thanksgiving gathering.
7) Who to Thank?
Be creative if you’re having trouble figuring out who to thank. Here’s a list of people that you may not EVER think of thanking, but who are extremely deserving of your thanks:
- The janitorial staff at your place of work that keeps your space clean and comfortable
- Your teacher or professor who helps you see new perspectives
- Your mentor who is always there to support you
- Your doctor who treats your ailments and gets you well
- The cashier who serves you coffee every morning
- The gas station attendant that keeps your car (and, therefore, you) going
- The waiter at your favorite restaurant
- The person who swipes your meal card at the dining hall with a friendly smile
- The bus driver who safely gets you to your destination day in and day out
- The volunteer at your church that coordinates your Bible Study group and that lovely luncheon after mass each week
These are often the people that help us live our daily lives, but receive little to no true thanks. Let’s help change these thankless jobs into thankful ones…
So, as you put on your stretch pants and get ready to feast this Thanksgiving, I hope you will figure out some way to say THANKS in whatever way, shape, form, or language that works for you…