The Thanksgiving holiday is a good time for us to think about the things we are thankful for; but it is also important for us to be thankful ALL of the time. So, I asked a few friends and family members to share some suggestions on how we can instill a mindset of thankfulness and contentment, in ourselves and in our children - not just at Thanksgiving, but year-round. I have separated these suggestions into three different categories, and would like to share them with you now....
We can instill a mindset of thankfulness and contentment, in ourselves and in our children, through:
(1) Helping others
(2) Using “thankfulness” activities
(3) Personal and Spiritual growth
HELPING OTHERSMy friend, Mary, wrote: I think I feel the most grateful and content with things in my life when I get a glimpse of how hard things could be. Makes me realize how much I take for granted. So, sometimes with the kids we have conversations about how other kids in the world don't have toys, clothes, food, warm beds, etc, and we have them clear out some toys from the basement or clothes from their drawers, to give to others.
Mary also gave several other suggestions in this category, including: (1) Participating in Operation Christmas Child (the shoebox ministry of Franklin Graham), (2) Visiting a nursing home to talk with the residents or pass out homemade cards or little presents. (3) Volunteering in a soup kitchen or food pantry.
THANKFULNESS ACTIVITIESOur Pastor’s wife, Scherry, suggested making little holiday "crackers" to share with the family. She said to have each person write out either a Thanksgiving wish, something they are grateful for, a poem they would like to share, or something else along those lines. Then, take a paper towel roller (when you are finished with your paper towels) and cut it into 3 parts. Use wrapping paper that is long enough to wrap around the cylinder with at least 2" excess on each side. Twist one end of the paper and tie it with a thin ribbon. Put your message inside the cylinder and twist the other end closed and tie with ribbon. These can be used as place cards at the table, or placed in a basket. Family members go around the table, open the crackers, and read what they wrote.
Mary said: Have each [family member] name one thing they are thankful for each day for awhile leading up to Thanksgiving, and then write those down on slips of paper and put them in a jar to be read on Thanksgiving day. Then next year pull them out and read them before starting the project again.
My sister, Judy, gave these suggestions:
For the kids: Make a collage of things you're thankful for.
For the adults: Write a thank you note to someone - just because
As a family: Have a “Thank you, God” prayer meeting
Cynthia suggested looking through material from Voice of the Martyrs. The articles and pictures from them really help to put things in perspective.
Our Pastor, Steve, mentioned this activity in church today: Write down 20 things you are thankful for. Then, every day (once or twice each day) take it out and go over the list. Focusing on the things you are thankful for tend to help get us into a better mindset of thankfulness.
PERSONAL and SPIRITUAL GROWTHDaneille said: I look back to the period where [the Thanksgiving] holiday was birthed. They spent time - several days - to celebrate; and, in their celebration, giving thanks to their Creator for supplying such a great bounty to sustain them for another cold, bitter winter. I like that: Creating a celebration of praise to our Lord for giving us our Salvation and strength and many blessings as we go forward living our lives for him.
My sister, Judy, who lost her home to a house fire, wrote: I used to complain about the old house, things I wanted to change about it.... When I started to complain about [the house we have now] having no character, I realized how much I had in the old house. So instead of complaining, I see this as an opportunity for us to add to our character. I'm thankful that I have a house and a home!
A message from James (my dad): Becoming thankful I believe is a growing process. Like when you have a near hit by another car while driving and as you are "cleaning up" you become aware how short life is. Also when the Doctor gives you the "news" you did not want to hear, the awareness is heightened once more. It seems to me that when we are ready to die, then we are ready to live and thankfulness is easy. We can find joy in bad situations. James says count it all joy. Happiness is a temporal thing but peace and joy one can have all the time.
God wants us to be grateful people. Each day I meet "ladder climbers" and people that have little gratitude in life. They are the ones that think they have it all in control.
So what I am doing when I rise in the morning is to begin the day with a thankful heart for another day of opportunities to glorify my Lord Jesus Christ. Remember a verse if I can that early and talk to the Lord. I give the day to Him even though I make my plans I say they are subject to change under the Holy Spirit's desire at any time.
It is saddening to hear ungrateful folk. I do not want to be one of them so I try to keep that in mind all day. Thankfulness is taught to our children mostly by example. Talking about it is okay but what do they see in us when we have a horrible day is what will stick with them when they have a day like that. There was a child I heard one time that swore when he hurt himself. His dad hearing that corrected him and the child said, "you do it", so dad asked for forgiveness and stopped. He even worked at stopping the acceptable slang words when he got hurt. Remember the children's Sunday school song, "Be careful little eyes what you do, etc", well little eyes are watching.
We cannot do much about our circumstances but we can do something about how we respond to circumstances.
Thankyou to everyone who responded. There are a lot of great ideas here that I intend to use. I hope everyone who is reading this will be able to use some of the ideas mentioned as well.
If anyone has any other thoughts or suggestions on this topic, I would be glad to hear them!
Happy Thanksgiving - Not just today, but EVERY day!