With so much rushing around during the holiday season, sometimes the essential holiday meaning gets lost in the shuffle, stuffing, and pumpkin pie. So it is also the perfect time to take a moment to reflect on your good fortune and give to those who are less fortunate—a time to put the “thanks” back into Thanksgiving.
1. Sit down with your family a week or so before Thanksgiving and work on a kindness list. Think about ways to proactively demonstrate kindness such as where and how to help people in the community.
2. Create decorations that express “thanks,” such as displaying words that reflect the feeling. Use a tablecloth that expresses the sentiment or create place cards that showcase words like thankful, bountiful, and grateful.
3. Have an elderly neighbor or know someone who is far away from their own family? It would mean so much to them if you would invite them to share in the holiday’s bounty at your home for the Thanksgiving meal.
4. Create a Thanksgiving tree. Ask everyone at your holiday celebration to write down at least one thing they are thankful for this year on precut “leaves” made from colorful paper. Then attach them to a “tree” poster. At the end of the meal, you can read the comments aloud. (You may want to tell people that the comments can be anonymous to avoid non participation from shy persons or grumpy tweens and teens.)
5. Provide a Thanksgiving holiday meal to a family in need. Many grocery stores have the option to buy and donate a prepackaged holiday meal right at check out. It’s an easy way to make a big difference.
6. Pay-it-forward by paying someone’s grocery or gas bill.
7. Organize a neighborhood park clean-up – or just do it with your family and friends.
8. Teach a senior how to use the internet or a smartphone.
9. With the cold weather upon us, volunteer to walk a dog for an elderly, sick, or disabled neighbor.
10. Volunteer at a local food pantry or food bank. The Food Depot, which distributes an average of 445,000 pounds of food and household goods monthly throughout northern New Mexico can only exist through the work of its many volunteers. Some of the help needed includes sorting and repackaging donated food, providing warehouse maintenance and admin help, community advocacy, and more. Learn more about the many food pantries throughout the Albuquerque area.
11. Visit seniors at a home for the elderly or in your neighborhood to demonstrate compassion. Maybe suggest a read-to-me program to those seniors who can no longer enjoy a good book themselves. Coming Home Connections, a Santa Fe nonprofit with an all volunteer network that offers in-house hospice care, occasionally gets requests for readers.
12. If your home is like mine, chances are your kids have an abundance of toys they no longer play with, books they no longer read, and clothes that no longer fit. The adults in the family also have much in their closets to eliminate! Take a moment to go through closets and donate unneeded items to a women’s shelter or charity such as Goodwill or Salvation Army. Donation Town is an online resource that lets you schedule a free pick-up of items and distributes items to the charity of your choice in their roster. (The service is also free to the participating charities.) For instance, in the Albuquerque area you can select from BBBS Central New Mexico, Arc of New Mexico, Clothes Helping Kids, Vietnam Veterans of America, and Animal Humane New Mexico.
13. Participate in State ECU’s Toys for Tots drive in conjunction with the U.S. Marines. Bring an upwrapped gift to any State ECU Santa Fe branch between November 20 and December 15 to help brighten a child’s holiday.
15. Reach out to a deployed service person who may feel especially lonely at this time of year. The non-profit Soldiers Angels has a number of ways to get involved: join the letter writers team, baking team, or send care packages. They also have specific programs to reach veterans and wounded military members. Another way to support those who serve is through the USO’s gift packages such as Comfort Food Packages and Long Distance Bedtime Stories (allowing deployed service member to read bedtime stories to their children and send personalized DVDs home).
16. Animals need our love and attention! Contact local animal shelters to find out their volunteer needs. Maybe it is even the perfect time to shower a pet with love by adopting it—and becoming an animal’s forever family.
Santa Fe Animal Shelter
Espanola Valley Humane Society
Animal Humane New Mexico
Animal Welfare Coalition of Northeastern NM
Certainly creating a more “thankful” experience is to practice mindful thanking during your holiday meal. In other words, take a moment to express your thankfulness for your good fortune. Some people say grace or might say a prayer, others might want to take a moment with a thankful meditation—simply encourage kids and guests to “send good thoughts” out into the universe.