We celebrate Thanksgiving as a special day set aside for giving thanks to God for His wonderful blessings. Most of us have longstanding traditions around Thanksgiving. Many of us will travel to be with family and others will host family members traveling to spend time with us. For most, Thanksgiving is a festive and happy time. For some, the holiday is a reminder of loneliness and emptiness, filled with sadness instead of joy.
Let’s take an honest look at how we actually spend the day. While we call it Thanksgiving, do we really spend the day in an attitude of thanks, meditating on the provisions from God that He freely gives us? Other than the typical extended prayer of thanks offered around the dinner table, I wonder just how much more devotion we give to giving thanks.
The day can be pretty selfish. Think about it. We usually consider how much time I get to spend with family, or how many football games I can watch, or how much shopping I can get done. There’s just a lot of “I” in there!
This is a holiday (a holy day) set aside for reflection, meditation and prayers. As we consider the Thanksgiving legacy we want to leave with our family and children, we enjoy spending time with relatives, watching sports or shopping, much like everyone else. But what if we invested more of the day giving to others? Here are some ideas:
Feed Others, Not Just Your Family
Thanksgiving Day could become a time of giving food to someone in your community who is hungry. Or giving clothes to a family with little. Or inviting a lonely person to your home for the day to share the joy of Thanksgiving. What a wonderful way to teach your children how to express God’s love and to be generous to others!
Many churches and religious organizations provide traditional Thanksgiving dinner to people in the community. Perhaps your family could give a few hours in setup, serving or cleaning through a program like this.
Invite A Guest
You may know a family through school, work or church that is struggling. Have you prayerfully considered inviting them to your house for Thanksgiving? You probably know a widow or widower or a single person for whom Thanksgiving is lonely. Consider inviting one or more to your home for Thanksgiving. The holidays can be brutal for them, especially if they have recently lost a loved one or endured a breakup.
Give Someone A Break
Perhaps you know a family with a homebound or hospitalized family member. You could give some of your time to stay with their loved so the family can celebrate Thanksgiving, even if it is just a short time. Offer to bring them Thanksgiving and share it where they are. Give some to time to clean their home or yard, or to do their laundry.
The only things I seem to get in my mailbox are bills and advertisements. Every now and then, we get a blessing in the form of a thank-you card or a note of encouragement. What an uplifting and inspiring gift, that someone would take the time to write their thoughts and mail it to us! Writing a card or note can be so inspiring and uplifting. In the days leading up to Thanksgiving, sit down with your family and write cards and notes together. This can bring your family together in quality time and teach your children to be thankful to those meaningful people outside your family.
Make A List
Challenge your family members to start a list of all the things in life they are thankful for. Then, on Thanksgiving Day, have each family member share the one thing each is most thankful for. You can do this around the dinner table or during a special family gathering time. Follow the sharing time with a season of prayer, expressing your sincere thanks to God. Give each person time to offer a prayer as they are led.
I know it is natural to think of holidays in terms of me or my family. But I challenge you to consider giving not only thanks, but also of your plenty on this Thanksgiving Day. Teach your children to give thanks and to be generous with the good things God has provided. Giving some of your time and your blessings away can prove to be such a wonderful blessing in so many ways. Let’s think outside our Thanksgiving traditions to serve others in Jesus’ name while teaching our children to serve and to be generous at the same time.
What ideas or activities have you or your family done around Thanksgiving for others? I would love to read your responses. Would you take a few minutes and write your thoughts below?