Around this time last year, I wrote a post on my personal blog called "Thank You, Dear Stranger" about gratitude. I explained that my husband and I were trying to teach our sons that gratitude is meaningless without action. It's useless to feel grateful for someone if you don't tell them, or even better, show them. I concluded: "Wouldn't it be wonderful if the holiday of Thanksgiving were accompanied by a season of kind-giving?"
Well, this year, I've decided to do just that. In the next couple of weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, my family will be making a gratitude tree:
This branch is now the centerpiece on our table, and I'm going to make paper leaves to go with it. Every time we feel grateful for someone, we'll write their name on one of the leaves and hang it on the "tree." On (or around) Thanksgiving, we'll go through the leaves and brainstorm ways we can show gratitude for those people. We'll narrow it down to a reasonable number, and then we'll carry out those acts of service in the weeks leading up to Christmas.
Part of the point of my original post was that sometimes we feel grateful for perfect strangers, and the best way to show gratitude for someone we'll never see again is by showing kindness to someone else. Some of the leaves on our tree might be strangers, but we can "serve" them by performing random acts of kindness for others we don't know.
The point is to show gratitude for our blessings by paying it forward with kindness, and to focus our holiday season on giving rather than receiving.
So I'd like to challenge all of you to find some way to focus your attention this month on the many people in your lives that you're grateful for and to think about how you can turn the holiday season into a season of kind-giving.