Thanksgiving is a holiday that gives us the opportunity to be our best selves. For some that means stuffing a turkey, baking pies and fixing traditional family dishes to be shared with friends old and new. For others it means volunteering our time and energy to prepare a festive dinner for the hungry in our midst, then sitting at a table with them and sharing stories. While the official holiday only lasts for 24 hours, the spirit of Thanksgiving can become an important part of our lives if we allow that to happen and help it grow within us.
How we choose to nurture that spirit can become a way of life for us. A year or two ago I wrote about our practice of passing out $500 checks to our daughter and son-in-law and grandsons on Thanksgiving, but the money wasn’t for them to save or spend. It was for them to give away before Christmas. Then on Christmas Eve we have had the joy of listening to them tell us what organization they gave the money to, what that particular charity does, and how they reached the decision to share part or all of that check with them. The boys were in junior high and early high school when we started that practice and we included their parents to be role models for them.
What we didn’t learn until long after the fact was that by the time they graduated from high school both of them had started making donations on their own. When the oldest was in graduate school he wrote us a note saying how much he appreciated the checks because it gave him the opportunity to be more generous than he could be otherwise.
Last year our family decided it was time to update that tradition so we’ve stopped writing checks to them. Instead each of us, including my husband and I, will write our own checks and then on Christmas Eve we will all share with each other what influenced our decision making and what charities we ultimately chose to give to.
I’m looking forward to being a part of that process and am thinking about where to give my $500. The one thing I’ve already decided is that it will all go to non-profits I’ve never given to before. At the top of the list are two charities I’ve always admired, but never included in our donation budget, which like everyone else’s will only stretch so far.
For the six of us sharing our financial resources is a tangible way to nurture the spirit of Thanksgiving in our lives. We see natural disasters like hurricanes, the spread of diseases like Zika and Ebola, and the plight of the homeless differently because we recognize the importance of sharing our income to make this a better world for others.
How about you and your family? Beyond the turkey and the pumpkin pie, how will you keep the spirit of Thanksgiving alive?