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Traditions: Giving Thanks

Two of my favorite words are “Thank you.” But how to these words become an attitude of appreciation? As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, I’m eager to find a way to teach my kids the deeper feeling of gratitude. The best way I’ve found to learn it myself is through active service to others. We’ve been brainstorming what our family project will be this year and think we’ve found it.

Growing up in North Carolina, my dad was responsible for both the spiritual and temporal needs of many in our church community. Our family often spent Thanksgiving weekend raking the thousands of leaves at the homes of widows or single mothers. My mom would typically make 2 dinners, one for us and one for a family without means to provide their own dinner. The effect was unforgettable for a 9-year old. I can still see the appreciation in the faces of those we visited, as I realized I’d done something for someone else, that they could not have done for themselves.

This year, my daughter’s school created a “Helping Hands” project. Our school will help collect and wrap donations for another school in our district where 93 percent of the students receive lunch assistance. As the students in the disadvantaged school complete assignments, they earn points to go shopping in a Rewards Store. Hot-selling items include Cup-O-Noodles and packages of new underwear. Other items stocked include school supplies, basic hygiene supplies and toys. While many businesses donate supplies to the Rewards Store, due to the depressed economy, those donations have dwindled. The Helping Hands project will help re-stock the Store before the Winter Break.

We have planned a clean-out day for our toy room and my kids are excited to take some of their own money and come shopping with me for new gifts. Our school is hosting an activity before the holiday when donations can be wrapped in clear cello bags and tags added. Then, we’ll get to help deliver and stock the Rewards Store with our treats. In a year when businesses have cut back in their donations, we know that the little effort our family can make to help will mean a lot. For me, I’m hoping my kids will remember what it feels like to do something for others and that the word gratitude will mean more than before.

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