A Meaningful Way of Celebrating Thanksgiving and Make a Difference In The World
A few years back, during the month of November, some friends were gathered to plan their Thanksgiving party. While discussing food and activities, Jerry, one of the friends, asked: “Why do we celebrate Thanksgiving anyway?”
Jim prompted spontaneously: “To eat turkey with friends and family. What else?” John questioned; “Is that it?” Selina jumped in; “It’s a historical tradition.” Terry said. “Dah! It’s in the name. Thanksgiving. We are supposed to give thanks for all the blessings we have in our lives. In our family, we say grace before Thanksgiving dinner.” Cathy brought in the historical context. “The Thanksgiving Day originated as a harvest festival. Although most people associate it with the event called the “First Thanksgiving” which was celebrated by the Pilgrims after their first harvest in the New World in October 1621, but it was not regularly celebrated for more than a century. Thanksgiving started getting celebrated nationally on and off since 1789, after a proclamation by George Washington to celebrate and give thanks for the progress of the US as a young country. It became a federal holiday every year since 1863, when, during the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed it as a national day of “Thanksgiving and Prayers” to be celebrated on the last Thursday in November. Together with Christmas and the New Year, Thanksgiving is a part of the broader fall/winter holiday season in the U.S.
She added’ “That is why many people like to show their gratitude by sharing their bounty and prosperity in form of feeding the hungry and giving to charity.” Tim added humorously; “Oh, I thought that people donate more during this time only to get tax exemptions before the end of the year. Now it makes sense why my family participates in the Giving Tree Tradition.”
Terry shared, “In our family, we go around the dinner table after Thanksgiving dinner and everyone shares their special thanks for things they are grateful for.” Jean shared her tradition of love notes which started as her Thanksgiving tradition but now she does that every week when her son and grandkids come over for dinner. She leaves a small card under each plate with one person’s name on the back and a prompt on the front: “Why I love you so” Each family member has to write an action or attribute of that person and share after dinner. She shared her favorite note by her grandson; “I love grandma because she gives the best hugs.” (You can get samples of these love notes from her website by entering the code: NOTES at https://www.kidsdiscuss.com/subscriber-gifts.asp)
A similar discussion inspired me several years back to make my celebration meaningful. I realized that the biggest blessings we have are the people in our lives. I felt that there are so many people in my life, who may not even know how they have made a difference for me. What if I give my thanks to them for their contribution to my life by acknowledging them? I was aware of the power of acknowledgment so beautifully depicted in this inspirational movie “The Power of Acknowledgment” – by Mary Robinson Reynolds based on a story by Helice Bridges ‘Who I Am Makes a Difference’. In this movie, the simple acknowledgment ribbon saved a young man’s life.
So, on the Thanksgiving Day of that year, after my gratitude journal, which I write every day, I started making a list of those people who had helped me in some way during my life. I decided to acknowledge those people by either telling them personally or on phone or in an email during the days between the Thanksgiving day and New Years day.
As I started listing the names, the list kept getting longer and longer and my heart kept getting filled with more and more happiness. I made different columns for family, friends, teachers, colleagues and service providers.
I realized how much love and care I have received from different family members who did not only met the basic necessities of my life but also helped me grow emotionally, socially and spiritually. Not only the immediate family members but the whole neighborhood and community acted like my extended family that supported me in both good and bad times.
I felt gratitude for the friends who provided support and care thru ups and downs of life. Laughing with me in happy times and wiping my tears in bad times.
I felt the gratitude for so many teachers from early education, school, college, university and ongoing training who have left a lasting impact on me. Not only my formal teachers but so many other people who have taught me and inspired me like authors whose books I got to read, the heroes that got to learn how they made difference in people’s lives and especially my patients who teach me by sharing their lives. When you are in the service industry, you may think that only you are making a difference in the lives of people you serve and you may not realize that serving, in turn, helps you too by giving you inner joy. My patients are a huge source of inspiration and learning for me in addition to helping me fulfill my purpose of life.
I felt gratitude for my colleagues who have and continue to provide intellectual stimulation and synergistic support in progressing through different stages of education and professional life. I feel gratitude even for the people who insulted me, questioned my abilities, tried to fail me or created obstacles in my path. Although it hurt me at the time, looking back, I can see that it actually helped me to jump over those obstacles as it led me to new opportunities. If I didn’t have those challenges, I would not have pushed myself as much, to excel and become stronger in the process.
I felt gratitude for the community organization that has helped me in so many ways like childhood immunization clinics, girls guide, school, student support and millions of volunteers. Even when I volunteer in these organizations, I learn the skills of teamwork and leadership. I felt gratitude to all the service providers from the farmers who work to bring food to me, doctors who help me keep healthy, people who help construct my home, to inventors who develop the technologies that I depend on so much; the lists go on and on. So many people have contributed to my life as it is at this time. I don’t even know the names or a way to communicate with many, but I can at least acknowledge those whom I have a direct communication link.
So, during the days between that Thanksgiving day and New year day, I started the process of meeting, calling or writing to a few people, on that list, each day. In expressing my gratitude, I tried to be specific whenever possible but many times just saying that “I made a list of people who made a difference in my life and you were one of them” generated the feeling of happiness on both sides.
When I call to express my gratitude, some of my close family members laugh. I know it is superficial because they feel that they are not doing anything special, but I know that in their heart, they feel good. Some express their gratitude in return. Hopefully, they are expressing their gratitude to the people who made a difference in their lives, creating a chain reaction and spreading the happiness. Who knows how this chain reaction is impacting lives and transforming the negativity of ill feelings to positivity of good feelings in the world. Just imagine, how much fighting would be avoided and how peaceful our world could be if all of us spread the feelings of goodwill in some ways.
If you like this idea, why don’t you also try to make a similar tradition for yourself this year and say thanks to people who made a difference in your life? It would not only make the person who would get your message feel joyful, it would make you feel happy in your heart. Share with me how you felt when you followed this or a similar tradition. (comments will appear after approval by the moderator) If you have other ways that you make your celebration meaningful or have questions or comments, please share with me below.
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