It is nearing that time of year when we all think about what we are thankful for. Many people will be thankful for big things like movie contracts or money they may have won. Others will be thankful for new members of the family. Still more will be thankful that they simply made it one more year or that they are happy to be with family who have been living long-distance.
Still others will be happy for the little things, because that is all that they have. I remember several years ago, I worked with a woman who worked two jobs (she was also an elementary school teacher) and though he tried hard, her husband was unable to find a job and they were going to lose their home and all that they had. She laughed a little then and said “at least I can still see.”
I laughed with her and said “you must have read my mind. I say that all the time. ‘At least I can still see.’ I still have my eyes. I still have a beating heart and breath in my lungs.” My husband and I had been living in a tent at the time. Both of us were working, but due to a series of disasters that happened one after another, we were unable to make ends meet most of the time. Though it sounded pitiful the way my friend and I said it, it was heartening. There are people in the world who had far, far less than just their health and it is a blessing to be strong and alive.
No matter how poor, everyone has something to be thankful for. I am thankful for clean water and hospitals. I am thankful that I have a place to live and a toilet. I am thankful that I can call the police if I am in trouble. I am thankful that if I cannot find food, someone will help feed me. I am thankful that there are no bombs dropping outside our house. I am thankful that I still have my vision. I am thankful for my family. There are so many people in the world who do not have even the most basic of things. Some people cannot call the police if someone comes to their home to harm them. Some people cannot leave a country destroyed by war. Some people must watch as their children die of starvation.
I am thankful for so much and during this time of year, there are many ways that we can help others to be thankful, no matter how terrible their situation. Even the poor can help the poor. Though you may think you have nothing, you have so, so much, just by living where you live. Here is a list of things that you can do for others this holiday season which may cost little or nothing. Together, we can spread the wealth that we all enjoy to those around the world.
– Oxfam and Heifer international help families help the poor in other countries by donating livestock which the family can use to earn a living. You can donate chicks, bees, cows, oxen, and dairy goats to those in third-world countries. Instead of just buying food which will not last, buying an animal can help that family support themselves for a long time to come. You can also pay to send a child to school where they can get an education and a job to support their families for the rest of their lives.
– Your children can do a good deed by going through all of their toys and choosing old items that they no longer use to donate to homeless and underprivileged children. Check your local homeless shelters and battered women’s shelters for more information. The Salvation Army also accepts used toys.
– Dogs, cats, and other animals also get cold and lonely. You can donate old blankets, pillows, stuffed toys, bowls, cat litter, dog treats, leashes, collars, towels, and other supplies to your local animal shelter.
– You can donate food to your local food pantries. Many grocery stores also have a program set up where you can buy a thanksgiving meal for an underprivileged family or a drop off area where you can donate your canned and nonperishable foods.
– You can donate your time volunteering for any cause you like. You can also take your family to a local nursing home. Many of those living there have no family to visit them during the holidays. Children’s company is often particularly appreciated. You can also have your children make homemade holiday cards to hand out to residents.
There are also other ways that you can celebrate being thankful this holiday season. I especially love family traditions that center around thankfulness rather than greed or shopping.
One tradition I particularly enjoyed was featured in this month’s Mothering Magazine by writers Corey Colwell-Lipson and Lynn Colwell called a Gratitude Bowl. This is a simple centerpiece for the holiday table which is a plain glass bowl. Have everyone in the family write a list of what they are thankful for on a small piece of paper and place it inside the bowl. The bowl can remain on the table during the meal and then the papers can be read during dessert. The article suggests that a fun game to play is to have everyone try to guess who wrote the list.
If you decorate a Christmas tree, you can write things that you are thankful for onto squares of paper, then fold them into origami shapes to hang on your tree. This is an inexpensive way to create very meaningful ornaments that will be treasured for years to come.
I encourage all readers to share their ideas in the comments section below both on how you can give to others for little or nothing this holiday season and also how your family celebrates being thankful.