Here’s a crafty idea you might want to try with your family this Thanksgiving. Provide strips of paper, suitable for making into a paper chain, and invite the family and guests to write on each strip something they are thankful for. They can use as many strips as they’d like. Then in the course of the gathering, have each person reach each slip aloud. Finally, afterwards — maybe sometime between the main course and dessert, have the children who are able staple these strips to form a paper chain of thanks. Will there be enough thanks to literally go around the table? Or around the room? Or perhaps enough thanks to go from one room to another?
Such a project has several benefits. When people listen to each other’s list of thanks, their own gratitude awareness can increase because we take many things for granted and don’t consider thanking God for some simple things like being able to breath or walk. When we hear another person give thanks for things we didn’t think of, it inspires to be grateful for those blessings too. Second, the visual aspect of a chain of thanks brings to our hearts and minds that we have so much to be thankful for. I know people say that frequently, but taking the time to write and assemble our thanks can increase our gratitude.
For those readers who pray the rosary, you might consider a thanksgiving variation on the usual prayer by thinking of a different thing to be grateful for as you pray each bead during Thanksgiving week. It’s sort of the same concept as the chain of thanks, but a lot more compact!
Finally, thanksgiving ought to lead to what I like to call “thanks-doing.” Giving thanks to God certainly puts us in right relationship with the one who has blessed us, but saying “thank you” is only one step. If all we did was say “thank you”, it would be like children who always say thanks to their mom and dad, but wouldn’t help them around the house. Real thanks leads to our sharing our time and blessings with others.
So as we list our blessings, lets consider who we can reach out to, whether locally or globally. And when possible, we can look to stretch ourselves beyond our own circle of family and friends. Consider the Native Americans who helped the Pilgrims survive in the New World: without their generous sharing of food and knowledge with immigrant settlers who didn’t share the same language or culture, our ancestors might not have lived past their first year here.
Thanksgiving helps us to be grateful for all who shared their blessings with us and our parents and grandparents and spurs us on to help the next generation “pay it forward.” Who knows? Maybe one day we’ll be a link in someone else’s Thanksgiving chain!