Giving Thanks By Giving Back

giving thanks by giving backThanksgiving, a day all of us in America give thanks to our friends, families, colleagues for being a part of our lives. We also take a minute or two to look around us and be grateful for all that we have as we know that there are some that have fallen on rough times and are struggling to keep a roof over their heads, let alone prepare a Thanksgiving feast. As we look at our children and listen to their laughter as they talk with relatives they do not see very often, we are filled with joy and warmth as we know that this year we are once again fortunate to be with loved ones and all safe and sound. While the turkey snooze starts to set in, we are reminded that Thanksgiving is also the kickoff for the holiday gift giving season.

Thanksgiving, The Kickoff to the Holiday Gift Giving Season

Thanksgiving, the first holiday after the end of the summer where families and friends come together to celebrate. We spend hours planning and then cooking a big feast so we all can sit and share a wonderful meal. For some they start with going around the table and sharing what they are thankful for. Everyone shakes their head in agreement and glasses are raised for it is time to dig in. Mealtime chats start slowly as we have the pass this, pass that, the small talk to catch up and then it starts … the shopping, the sales, the plans and agenda for Black Friday. Our turkey has not even so much as quenched our palate and we are already sharing our holiday shopping plans.

Retailers are pulling out all stops to bring to lure us in; for they know that it has not been the best of years and rebounding to end the year on a high is what is on their agenda. The door busters in the wee hours in the morning, the people camping out all night braving the cold to be sure to get what is on their list.The madness, chaos all so that we can give to our loved ones, friends, etc. Is this what the holiday gift season is all about?

Giving Thanks by Giving Back

Giving thanks to those we care about is easy. What about those that we do not know? We all need a helping hand sometimes and this year we are finding more and more families that need  help. The number of homeless families and those seeking public assistance are staggering and continue to grow each day. These are regular people that have lost their jobs, their homes and are doing all that they can to find a warm bed, adequate clothing and food for themselves and their children. The gift giving season for them is going to be dependent upon the good will of others. We are the others. We can make a difference in the lives of others by giving thanks for what we have through giving back to others.

6 Ways to Give Thanks by Giving Back

1. Coats. Eyeing that new coat you saw in the sales circular that is just a must have? Kids outgrew last years coat already? Instead of tossing the old coat, donate it to your local coats for kids. Share the warmth of the holiday cheer by keeping a family properly dressed this winter.

2. Shoes/Boots. Have you seen those gorgeous black boots that have your name written all over them? And, wait, they are a buy one, get one half off? Instead of having 2 pair and having one sit in the closet as we know the 1st pair is your favorite, how about donating the 2nd pair?

3. Clothing. Take the time to clean out the closest, dresser draws to make room for the new fashion trends of the season as you know that sweater that you wore 2x last year is not even getting a sneak peak of the great outdoors this year. Also consider purchasing some  items (socks, underwear, undershirts, pajamas, etc)  especially for children to donate. Just because a family is poor, it does not mean that they should not be able to have new clothes.

4. Food. Everyone needs food and the food banks are giving out more than they are able to take in. Grab a few extra items next time you are at the grocery store, take advantage of the 10 for 10 sales and help fight hunger. Being hungry for a few hours until you get home is one thing, being hungry having no idea when your next meal will be is another.

5. Toys. We have seen the videos, the commercials and can recall our own kids screams and shrills for what Santa as brought them. It is just what they wanted. Bring that joy to another child this year. As you cross items off your list and recuperate from the Black Friday madness and set out to do it all again on Saturday, add up how much you have saved and consider taking that savings, or a portion of the savings and purchasing toys for kids. Matchbox cars are $.97 at many retailers. $.97 is less than that cup of coffee and brings such joy to a little boy. Barbies, tea sets, crayons, coloring books, action heroes … something. The holiday gift giving is more about the children than it is for adults.

6. Time. Food banks and shelters are always needing volunteers and not just on holidays. Inquire as to what the busiest days are and see where you can schedule time and help. Shelters are at maximum capacity but at the lowest staffing rates. There are also areas where you can donate your time that we do not always think about. Child care. Offering to lend a hand with watching the kids when a friend has an interview, is not feeling well, needs to go to the grocery store; providing transportation or just spending time with them so that they know that they are cared about.

There is so much we can do to help others. We do not need to only think of them during the holidays as we can throughout the year donate and even buy items that we hold on to and bring down during the holidays. If you go to a Target or a Walmart once a week, why not add that $.97 car or peruse the clearance section and pick up a few items once a month? The buy one get one Free or the buy one get one half off, donate the second item, take advantage of other sales so that the holiday gift giving is not such a hit on your wallet and you can remember those that are unable to have adequate and proper fitting clothes for themselves and their kids, food and toys.

Look around you and look at the walls that are adorned with photos, art, book shelves, sit on your bed and feel how comfortable it is, tug on the blankets that keep you warm each night, look differently inside the pantry, the fridge and freezer and instead of wondering what to cook for dinner, be grateful you have food to cook for dinner and imagine in a minute it all being gone. Imagine not being able to buy a gift for your child, being able to purchase a warm coat, hat or gloves, imagine hearing the growls of the stomachs and not being able to feed them … this is the the reality for so many, many of which just a few months ago were laying on the comfortable bed, tugging on the blankets and making lists of what to buy for friends and family this year.

Being thankful for those that are in your life that make a difference and brighten your day is not just limited to the holidays, as we cherish and thank them all year round. They are there when we need them with that reassuring voice that everything will be ok or will get better. This holiday gift giving season, be that reassuring voice through giving to make a difference in someone elses life.

photo credit: Pink Sherbet Photography

  • We, obviously, don’t have a Thanksgiving in the Netherlands. I joined a Thanksgiving dinner once, in Canada, and I have to say: it does have a special feeling and atmosphere to it.Making Thanksgiving a feast of giving, instead of receiving, seems so natural and logical. In the Netherlands, we celebrate ‘Sinterklaas’ (on December 5), who is quite different from Santa Claus, although they seem to have some superficial similarities. Sinterklaas is specifically meant to be a kids’ celebration and it very often is all about big toys and the joy of receiving, instead of the joy of giving… Makes you wonder!Excellent article, Suzanne!Have a warm Thanksgiving!Guido

    • Guido

      Thank you so much for sharing Sinterklaas and a part of the Netherlands. Santa is about giving to the children but also for them to give to others. Fine line there as Santa brings all the toys, right?

      There is joy in giving as when we stop to think about it we are making a difference and easing some of the stresses and uncertainties so many face. I think of people who are trying to save or find enough money to buy shoes, coats, warm clothing for their kids and that toy is just not in their budget.

      I do pick up and donate items all throughout the year as somewhere someone is receiving them and able to sleep a bit easier if even for just one night.

      Thanks so much for reading and your kind words.

  • Hi Suzanne,

    One area I need to work on is to ‘give’ others more attention. When you run a business from home it’s real easy to get wrapped up in emails and everything else. Business always seems to be spinning in my brain!

    So, hard as it is, I try to turn off and really give others my attention. Not always easy but I can see it makes a difference when I try.

    Take care,


    • Ivan

      You are not alone on the giving of time. We are all harried and looking for that little bit extra of time. We do get wrapped up in business as I have so many pieces of paper around for new ways to help clients, new ways to promote the business and blog articles ideas and that is good but it is also good to take a breather and look around at the people around us in our community and giving a bit of our time to them will make their lives better.

      Making that difference does go so far and we never know when we just might need someone ourselves.

  • From my experience, I notice that many people are not “generous” enough not just for lack of generosity per se, but for disappointment in how certain solidarity causes are managed.
    Dang I am sorry to always bring the italian example (are you sick of that already? haha) but here, every now and then, we come to know that all the food we gathered for the occasional world’s disaster has gone rotten ’cause of mismanagement, or money gathered for emergency A and emergency B has been stolen by the solidarity organization’s chairmen, and so on.
    With happenings like these, how can people feel compelled to give money anymore?
    If there were proven, easily trackable ways to “give”, I am sure things would improve a lot.

    • Gabriele

      I love hearing the comparisons to Italy – please keep em coming! I did not necessarily look at the giving from that point of view. It is an interesting way to think about it as when we give our expectation is that it is helping. When it is not, they in a way why bother? I see that side of it but then I trail to we can give in other ways.

      I think a big part of it is that we hear of ways to give, we act upon that as it is what is hot for that time and people want to be a part of what is hot to be able to say they were a part of it. Bandwagon in a way?? Not sure if that is the right term, but we see that often. I am not discouraging people in any way but I at the same time, people are hungry every day, people need help every day and to forget that 360 days a year and jump on it just a few days is tough to think about. I am not the preacher or poster child of giving 365 days a year but the littlest things make such a difference and to ease some stresses from people goes so far.

      Love having ya come on over and talk with me and the readers. Please do not stop telling us about Italy for that would be a shame!

      • Now that I think about it – and I wonder how could I forget – something very frequent in Italy is gathering money through phone text messages. Which means, for example take Haiti, for a while people could send a text to a certain number, it would cost them 1 or 2 euros, that money would go to charity to help Haiti and they would have a shot at having their message published during the show on tv. That exploited both the “bandwagon” mentality and the psychology of “low cost”, and since the charity amount was predetermined, it’d also eliminate the Choice (which as you know is psychologically the most destructive thing for marketers) and the chance of being ashamed for a low amount donated (noone donates 2 dollars usually, as they’d feel “cheap”, but once the amount is predetermined and fixed for everyone, all’s good).
        Also, donating more than once would have you double or triple chances to appear on tv and so on.
        Pretty successful method uh? Do you have something similar over there?

        • Gabriele

          We had the text xxx to xxxx for donating x$ to Haiti but I do not recall your donation showing up on tv.

          It is very successful as people did do their part and jumped in so fast here in the US. When people are given a predetermined amount to donate, I do also think it does get more people to donate. There is not the uneasy feeling of not knowing how much to give.

  • What an amazing idea! I had never thought of buying something 50% off to give to charity. You just added to my list of things I need to do more often.

    It is great to see posts like these giving ideas on how to help. Also getting people in to the mindframe of being glad of what they have helps.

    Great job!

    • Raul

      I am full of these ideas as I am always looking for ways that I can help people that are in need all year long. The buy one get one either free or half off is a means of not being greedy or selfish with having both. I generally try and only write about things that I have done, tried, read a lot about, etc myself as it leaves more of a powerful impact I think.

      It is a whole lot easier to remember to donate frequently when you do it this way too.

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