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Thanksgiving: The Perfect Holiday for Gratitude and Service

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Thanksgiving is a tradition-filled day that kicks off the end-of-year holiday season of shopping, decorating, exchanging gifts and, hopefully, charitable giving. No matter how your family honors Thanksgiving, it is full of opportunities to create new family traditions that help children understand how lucky they are to have the comforts of home, food, and family and that teach family members to express gratitude for all of the goodness in their lives. Simple Acts: The Busy Family’s Guide to Giving Back gives examples of how you and your family can make a difference this Thanksgiving no matter the amount of time you have to spare!

One way to give back is helping prepare a Thanksgiving meal for others! Here are some online resources that can assist in finding a local organization:

Once you’ve identified the appropriate organization to help, inquire about what kinds of assistance are needed around Thanksgiving. Here are some ways your family can make a difference:

  • During the month of November, work with your children to organize a canned-food drive in your neighborhood, with a Girl or Boy Scout troop, or in your apartment building or school. Collect specific requested Thanksgiving food.
  • Donate frozen turkeys to your local food pantry, or contribute grocery-store gift cards.
  • Ask whether you and your family can bake and donate pies or other desserts.
  • In the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, encourage children to create cards of decorate place mats, shopping bags, or to be used or included in Thanksgiving deliveries.

At your own Thanksgiving table, be sure to include time for reflection about gratitude and kindness. Take a moment during the meal to allow each person to mention a specific thing for which he or she is grateful. Ask everyone to write down his words of gratitude on a colorful slip of paper (along with his name and the date) and add them to a gratitude jar. The jar can be the centerpiece of your Thanksgiving table each year! Every few years, pull a few slips of paper out of the jar during dinner and read them aloud. These mementos will become treasured remembrances as time goes by.

Arts-and-crafts projects that help children express gratitude:

  • Trace children’s hands, and cut out the outlines to create handprint turkeys. On each “feather,” children can write a person or thing for which they are grateful.
  • Paper “gratitude leaves” can be hung from a stick.
  • An individualized place mat for each guest can list the top 10 things that the child loves or appreciates about that person.

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