Next week is Thanksgiving and, as usual, this holiday pushes me, and probably you, to spend more time thinking about what I am grateful for. I have a pretty standard list: a house, heat, my family, contacts and glasses so I can see, a body that works pretty well, chocolate, friends, music, books, a variety of food, a beautiful world.
I found another thing to appreciate in a newsletter I received a few weeks ago from Susan Cain, the author of “Quiet and Bittersweet”. Writing shortly after Hamas attacked Israel, she encouraged us to remember the good side of humanity and to look for and appreciate those who create knowledge, beauty, and quiet along with their creations: scientific discoveries, music, literature, art, places to be still. Acknowledging these things can provide bright spots in difficult days. I’ve often turned to a favorite song or spent time outside when life gets overwhelming. I enjoy reading the Orchids in The Republic to see how kind people are to each other. I also follow Upworthy on social media to see more examples of the good side of humanity.
A more typical thing I’m thankful for this year is getting together with family at my brother’s house in the Chicago area. I’ve gone there for almost every Thanksgiving since I moved to Indiana in 2005. We’ve missed the last few years due to COVID and work conflicts. I’m grateful I’ll be able to spend more time with my brother and sister-in-law than I’ve been able to in a while.
Another thing I’m looking forward to while we’re there is going Black Friday shopping with my sister, sister-in-law and niece. We used to get up early to try to get the best deals, but now it’s become more of a chance to just spend time together. We’re no longer as concerned about being at the beginning of lines or getting to stores right when they open.
Additionally, our gift giving has shifted. Our children are all adults now, so they don’t need toys anymore and we don’t need any more stuff either. We look for more practical things, goodies that can be consumed, or things that aren’t things — like time spent together. My oldest son has included doing activities together on his Christmas list for several years now and a few years ago my gift to him was for us to run a half-marathon together. That is now a treasured experience and I’m grateful my son’s list pushed me to train for a half-marathon and to approach gift giving differently.
Other gifts that aren’t things could be donations to causes or charities. I like to give many of my donations on Giving Tuesday (the Tuesday after Thanksgiving) because many large donors will match other people’s contributions on that day. Donating to charities can also be a way of showing your gratitude for what you have as you share your resources with others.
If your children are grown like mine and you miss buying toys, perhaps you could purchase some for the Firemen’s Cheer Fund (firemenscheerfund.org) or Toys for Tots (bartholomew-county-in.toysfortots.org) to help families in challenging circumstances.
You can also give children experiences through the Firemen’s Cheer Fund in the form of gift cards to: Columbus Rock Gym, KidsCommons, Columbus Skateland, Hamilton Ice Center, YES Cinema, Columbus Bowling Center, or the Putt Putt Fun Center.
Feeling and expressing gratitude brings a multitude of benefits such as happiness, contentment, better relationships, less stress and anxiety, better quality of sleep, and more energy (see positivepsychology.com). So, as Thanksgiving and Christmas approach, I encourage you to contemplate what you are thankful for, both typical and less typical, and then share your gratitude with others.
Susan Cox is one of The Republic’s community columnists, and all opinions expressed are those of the writer. She is an avid reader, an outdoor enthusiast, a mother, a grandmother, and an adjunct instructor of English at IUPUC. She can be reached at [email protected].