If you only read your Facebook feed you might forget about the Thanksgiving dinners held in the shadow of grief or in the aftermath of divorce. Television commercials seem to forget about the lonely Thanksgivings, the sad Thanksgivings and the angry Thanksgivings happening all around us. Life is not about constant happy moments and there is a good chance you have or will experience a tough Thanksgiving in your lifetime. Which presents an opportunity to “keep it real” with others that are having a difficult time this week.
As you experience the holiday of gratitude, remember to reach out to those dealing with life trials you’ve faced and overcome. Maybe they’re making the same mistakes you’ve made. Maybe they’re struggling with the same grief process you’ve had to make peace with. For me, I’m reflecting on the times I failed myself. I’m reflecting on the times I failed to be who I hoped I was and the shame that came along with that. I’m inspired to tell someone else at that same point of despair that I understand. I’ve been where they are and the pain is not permanent.
If there is one way I’d encourage you to serve this week, it would be to lovingly open up to someone going through a challenge you uniquely understand. Turn your gratitude into an opportunity to serve.
Happy Thanksgiving to you all.
This is the time of year when family recipes are anxiously awaiting their holiday arrival. Usually there are several family favorites that stand out on any Thanksgiving menu. For us it is my mother’s sweet potato pie and her baked macaroni and cheese. These recipes require a lot of labor – peeling sweet potatoes and grating cheese until our arms go numb! But we press on. We’re certain that those dishes are worth the extra effort.
I read a quote recently by Brené Brown in which she said “Love requires tenacity and grit. It’s work. It’s the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.” This quote can almost sound scary, but it isn’t. It is just making clear that the ingredients of love are not things easily prepared. Sweet potatoes don’t peel themselves and the ingredients of love won’t come to you without effort.
Preparing Love’s Ingredients
- Vulnerability: We are starting here because vulnerability is where love begins and how it deepens. Vulnerability takes courage and it takes action. You have to dedicate time and effort to discovering and expressing your true feelings, dreams, passions and fears. You have to build the courage to show someone who you really are (not who you think they want you to be). In doing so, you bravely face potential rejection and/or judgment. Not an easy ingredient to prepare but absolutely essential in the recipe of love.
- Respect: Many people think respect is a feeling you have for someone. As an ingredient of love, respect is more about your actions than your feelings. Take a moment to think of someone you respect. Ask yourself, do you allow them to get their full thought out before you start speaking? Do you value their opinions enough to let it change your mind? Do you value their judgment enough to let them make choices without any of your input? If your answers to these questions are consistently “No” you may want to evaluate whether your actions are matching your feelings. Love requires that you “show” respect to those you love not that you simply “feel” it.
- Service: Service is all about action; it’s about work. That might not be sexy, but it is the backbone of love. You cannot love someone and be unwilling to do things for them (big and small). Regularly evaluate if your actions are helping and supporting the people you truly love.
- Gratitude: One of the many benefits of love is that it reminds us of our value as human beings. When someone loves us, they give us the reminder that we are special and we are worthy. When we love someone else, we are to be actively reminding them of their value. To do that task, we have to cultivate and express our gratitude for them and the things they do for us. Is there anyone you love that doesn’t know how much you value them? Tell them today.
How did I do?
Are these the four most important ingredients in the recipe of love?
“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”
– John Fitzgerald Kennedy
I have to admit it; I’m one of those people that doesn’t wait until after Thanksgiving to start my holiday season. I’m singing carols and thinking about Christmas decorations already. I know it’s wrong since Thanksgiving hasn’t passed yet. I just can’t seem to help myself. I know that Thanksgiving deserves better.
Thanksgiving is a tremendous holiday marked with amazing food and thoughts of gratitude and community. If you want to put the spirit of Thanksgiving into action right now, below are 70 simple ways to get started. Why wait?
70 Ways to Live Your Gratitude
- Send encouragement to someone taking care of an aging parent.
- Rake your neighbor’s leaves.
- Donate coats and blankets you won’t use often.
- Register to be an organ donor.
- Be bold enough to ask for help. Let someone else experience the gift of giving.
- Get to know someone on a deeper level. Who did they love? What did they lose? What matters most to them?
- Be a connector. Introduce two people with mutual interests or career pursuits.
- Multiply the impact of your donations by joining a giving circle.
- Share this post to give others ideas on gratitude in action.
- Brighten a teacher’s day. Send in an unsolicited treat or thank you.
- Treat your spouse to an unexpected display of passion.
- Do online research about the distinction between charity and philanthropy.
- Encourage someone to share their faith with you in a place where it is normally kept quiet (work, school, etc).
- Grant someone the freedom to parent differently than you without judgment.
- Bring a neighbor an unexpected gift.
- Register to vote or correct your voting information.
- Offer an elderly pet owner peace of mind by suggesting you care for their beloved pet whenever they are unable.
- Choose to share something shameful or painful in your past if it will help another feel less alone.
- Rally around an acquaintance going through a difficult time. Sometimes it’s the most unexpected acts of love that touch us the most.
- Act! Move beyond sympathetic thoughts. Vow to do one small thing (donate, advocate, etc.) to address a problem that seems hopeless.
- Cut a neighbor’s grass.
- Donate school supplies.
- Offer support to a grieving soul long after the funeral.
- Share a piece of wisdom that only comes with age.
- Make a call and check on an elderly family member.
- Laugh long and hard. Laugh loud enough for others to hear you.
- Give someone a gift you made yourself.
- Say no. Knowing you can set limits will give you the confidence to serve more.
- Take a walk with a loved one. It serves the body and soul.
- Admit you’re biased. We all are. Facing that we have biases (racial, class, religion, etc) helps us to better address our issues and to serve more sincerely.
- Loan someone a book you love.
- Don’t let it sit in a drawer. Give your old cell phone and chargers away or donate them to a charity.
- Treat a pet with kindness and respect.
- Share public service information (traffic detours, power outages, flood warnings etc.) via social media.
- Turn off and unplug electronics you aren’t using.
- Pick up trash that wasn’t properly discarded.
- Give someone more credit than they deserve.
- Hear gossip and refuse to spread it.
- Believe someone’s dream is possible. And tell them. They need the support.
- Fight indifference. Let yourself feel sadness when you see a homeless person.
- Tell someone you forgive them. And mean it.
- Put a Band-Aid in your wallet to give away when needed.
- Contact an elected official via social media to quickly advocate for a cause you believe in.
- Call someone you usually text and tell them you just wanted to hear their voice.
- Pick up an extra item or two from the grocery store to donate to your local food bank.
- Make a small online donation to a charity you support.
- Practice empathy. Take a few minutes and imagine the struggles of someone you know.
- Listen carefully. Many people yearn to be heard.
- Thank a healthcare provider for their service.
- Tell someone a joke.
- Save someone from a work conversation they aren’t enjoying. “I hate to interrupt, but can I borrow you for two minutes.”
- Actually take your reusable bags into the store with you.
- Actually take your reusable cup into Starbucks with you.
- Pray for someone.
- Teach someone something. Anything.
- Text someone a specific compliment. (e.g. “I admire how much patience you have with me.”)
- Give someone you love your undivided attention.
- Hold a door open and wait while multiple people pass through.
- Take time to write a supportive comment to someone on Facebook.
- Hug someone.
- Share any online article that raises awareness of a service need.
- Let that busy person behind you go ahead of you in line.
- Leave change in a vending machine.
- Pay the toll for the person behind you.
- Thank a solider for their service.
- Discuss with a younger relative a piece of your family history.
- Cheer loudly for someone else’s kid.
- Give away an extra umbrella on a rainy day.
- Serve this service blog. Send via email or social media one idea to quickly put the spirit of service into action.
- If you love them, tell them.
This list has been building all year.
Which ones have you done already?
Which ones do you plan to try next?