Last night, I went to the movies with one of my Omani friends to see Frozen 2 (and yes it was amazing!!!!). While we were waiting for the movie to begin, I started telling my friend about Thanksgiving. She asked if I would miss my family, I said yes. And then she asked whether we gave and received gifts for Thanksgiving like Christmas. I chuckled and said no. But thinking about it now…why don’t we offer gifts of gratitude on Thanksgiving?
I received an email this morning from one of my former professors, Tony Brown, who was reflecting on Thanksgiving. In his family, like many, they have a tradition of going around the table and saying something for which they are thankful. He mentioned how valuable even a brief pause for reflection like this can be, and I agree that voicing what we are thankful for is an important practice. But why does that expression of gratitude reach only around the dinner table. What if it extended into the world? Tony wrote:
“What if we extend the meaning of our Thanksgiving dinner conversation beyond giving thanks to include ideas about gratitude-based deeds to benefit to others (extending Thanks-giving to include Thanks-giving)? What if our conversation focuses on feelings of gratitude and actions generated by them?”
I love the idea of including Thanks-giving into this all-to-commercialized and frankly too food-centered holiday.
My professor, Tony, went on to describe two forms for giving:
- Pay it forward: Replicate a good deed from a personal benefactor to benefit someone else.
- Pay it back: Express gratitude to and/or create a good deed for a personal benefactor.
These acts of paying it forward and paying it back can be small yet incredibly meaningful.
So here is your CHALLENGE OF THE DAY:
After saying what you are thankful for this day, I challenge you to brainstorm how you can show that gratitude through an act of paying it forward or paying it back. Make this part of the dinner table dialogue too. And then of course, go and do it.
If you have a table of ten people today, that’s ten small good deeds spreading out into the world. As delicious as the food in front of us may be, how can we think beyond our table and spread the love a little farther. How can we bring more giving into this Thanksgiving?
I will end by sharing a prayer that I read and find perfect for today:
Oh, God, when I have food
help me to remember the hungry;
When I have work, help me
to remember the jobless;
When I have a warm home,
help me to remember the homeless;
When I am without pain,
help me to remember those who suffer;
And remembering, help me
to destroy my complacency
and bestir my compassion.
Make me concerned enough
to help, by word and deed,
those who cry out
for what we take for granted. Amen.
~Samuel F. Pugh