As a kid, I vaguely recall the once a year call to gratitude. We, like many American families, would go around the table and share something we were thankful for. Food, friends, family, I am sure were the go-to answers. And I remember bedtime prayer...a mandate in my youth and occasional choice as I grew older and more independent. Now, as an adult, gratitude is more than a platitude, It is a lifeline. When all else fails, I reach for my journal and I make a list of what I am most thankful for. In fact, years ago, I started a list. I pull it out each Thanksgiving and challenge myself to add as many blessings to the list as possible without repeating any that are listed. It is a powerful read. It includes the days of infertility that came before the adoption of my son. It lists friends and family who have transitioned. It lists goals that have been accomplished, milestones reached...and ageless gifts that stand the test of time...the ocean, Tina Turner, drawing with chalk...
I believe expressing gratitude is one of the most powerful things a person can do. It holds the power to transform a moment, a situation, a relationship... and the person himself. "It's not easy being grateful all the time. But it's when you feel least thankful that you are most in need of what gratitude can give you." Oprah Winfrey.
This year, I have made a promise to myself to guide my son in the ways of gratefulness And as with all lessons, I have made a promise to myself to do it with joy and laughter. Care to join me? Here is a small but mighty list of fun ways to include gratitude at your Thanksgiving table, and anywhere else you would like to add it to your lives.
* Make a Thanksgiving turkey or wreath. Add feathers or leaves on which everyone writes things for which they are grateful
*Create Thank You notes for people who you may sometimes take for granted (your mailman, bank teller, crossing guard, etc.)
*Create a Gratitude Jar. Add things to it all year. You can place it in the center of the Thanksgiving table and read from the items that have been filling it throughout the year.
*Create a gratitude scavenger hunt. Have kids find and photograph or draw things they are grateful for in various categories. (a favorite book, favorite food, favorite toy, something from nature, something beautiful, something that smells amazing, something that makes me think, makes me laugh, someone I adore, something free, something I could not live without, favorite music, something challenging or difficult, something priceless.) Ps. Grown ups can play too!
*Make a gratitude quilt. Give each member of the family a square of paper or material. Allow each to write and draw the things they are grateful for. Join them together with tape, glue or sew them. This quilt can be displayed and added to each year.
* Design a gratitude time capsule. Each family member can make a list of 10 things they are grateful for this year. Save them in a special jar and break it out next year. Review the year's lists and add more each year.
*Grati-gories Give everyone a few sheets of paper. Draw or choose a letter. Everyone gets 60-90 seconds to make a list of everything they can think of for which they are grateful that starts with that letter. (If there are small children, break into teams). Do several rounds using different letters.
*Gratitude Book. Each year, have every guest complete a page of the things they are grateful for. It can be done with fancy paper and markers or simply with notebook paper and pencil. Have them sign and date it. Add each page to a gratitude book that is shared and added to each year.