#Thanksgiving Gratitude for the Whole Family

Category: Weekly Columns

How many people use Thanksgiving to reflect on their lives, to express gratitude for their blessings, and to reflect on those less fortunate? As a parent, this is one of those fabulous teaching moments for kids. Of course, prepare the great meal and invite friends and family, but perhaps there is greater good to be had? (Note: Enjoy last years Thanksgiving column, too)

I’ve been living my life “in gratitude” for many years now. I often reflect on how fortunate I am, especially in the health department because without health you have nothing. I truly wake up every morning and think that I’m blessed to have had a relatively good night’s sleep and look forward to the day ahead. What adventures will I have? Who will I meet and talk with? What will I eat? What surprises await me?

When a huge tragedy like Hurricane Sandy strikes our country and so many of our fellow Americans, the focus is even greater on how much luck can play in the outcome of our lives. I haven’t stopped caring and thinking about the thousands upon thousands of victims, their losses, and the lives lost, even if most media has dropped the story unless something dramatic occurs to get their attention again.

For so many affected by Sandy, their lives will undergo horrific challenges and many will clearly never recover their lost belongings, but many will also live the rest of their lives in fear. The latter is a choice as just about everyone we know suffers some tragedy in his or her lives. I am most certainly not saying that getting over such a loss as one’s home and belongings is not easy nor do I know if I would be able to do it. I would just pray for the strength to do so, if at least for my family.

My thanks this Thanksgiving include many things, from the incredible good fortune of sharing a cross-country drive with my first-born, taking him to his first year of college, to the fact that my wife no longer seems to need the knee surgery we at first feared she would have to have. Other blessings include the continued joy of my work and the wonderful people I interact with worldwide. This year, I began appearing on HuffPostLive and that’s been a hoot. My second book is coming out this week and I just got a new car – after seven years and 200,000+ miles in my truck.

My list goes on and on, but I want to offer some ideas for you and your family to employ when you sit around the table this Thanksgiving that might heighten everyone’s feelings of warmth, reflection on life’s blessings, and gratitude.

~~ Do a Best and Worst

We’ve had this tradition ever since the boys were little and could barely speak. The idea is to go around the table and share the best and worst things that happened in the previous week. We do it every Friday night, at Shabbat.

The kids eventually really got into it and we all learned things about each other from this sharing. One thing we instituted from the first day was that only one worst was allowed.

We do this weekly, but what a great idea to do this on Thanksgiving with all of your family and friends. What might you learn? What would you share?

~~ Get the kids to discuss how, where, and when YOUR FAMILY will contribute and help the victims of Hurricane Sandy

Help your kids learn compassion. Take some time during the Thanksgiving holiday to go online and choose a charity to contribute to from “the family.” Let the kids see the pictures of the displaced, homeless, and injured from this tragic event. Let them appreciate the warmth and comfort of their own homes. Teach them that the world is bigger than any one of us.

While we are sitting around in our warm, comfortable homes eating a great meal, so many are at shelters and wondering where they’ll be living tomorrow.

~~ Honor the senior members at the table and those not present

Our seniors deserve our respect. Whether they are present or in our memories or actually present, let’s honor them this Thanksgiving. Consider visiting a nearby senior home or center and volunteering over the holiday or Christmas-time. Again, involve the kids and teach them the value of giving.

Reach out to the seniors at your Thanksgiving table and ask them to tell everyone about Thanksgivings from their past. Reflect with them. Let the kids hear these stories and understand their family history.

~~ Rescue an animal from the local shelter

C’mon, you’ve put off getting that dog or cat for your family. Why not save one from your local animal shelter. We’ve done it FOUR times and had FOUR amazing dogs as members of our family.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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