In the Spirit of Thanks and Giving
By Chris Dunmire | Posted June 1, 2014 | Updated November 25, 2019
Doctor Wilfred T. Grenfell (1865—1940) observed, “Real joy comes not from ease or riches or from the praise of men, but from doing something worthwhile.”
Grenfell was a medical missionary to Newfoundland whose impactful work in the medical field in the late 1800s "expanded to developing schools, an orphanage, cooperatives, industrial work projects, and social work" that went on to inspire characters in Canadian literature 1, 2.
Doing something worthwhile is a path towards meaning-making and joy, often through engaging earnestly, honestly, and deeply in creative expression and/or through personal connections.
For an artist, it may very well be acting on his creative impulses and expressing himself through paint or performance. For a scientist, it is her discovery or enlightenment through research and experimentation. For a teacher, it is helping her first graders to learn how to read, transferring life skills through mentorship. Creativity and connection is active in all persons whether it is bringing something new into being, facilitating opportunites for the greater good, or connecting people and resources for a far-reaching benefit. Time and energy spent in these endeavors is well-invested and worthwhile.
What are some ways you have made meaning in your life? How might you invest your time and energy into new actions and opportunities? What small step can you take today at work, school, or at home with loved ones or with other people in filling your well and making the minutes of your day count for yourself and in the service of others?
In the spirit of thanks, giving, and gratitude, how can you use your gifts to share, connect, and impact the greater good? Following are some writing prompts and more questions for reflection to inspire your inner dialogue and writing in this season of thanksgiving.
"In the United States, Thanksgiving is a four day weekend which usually marks a pause in school and college calendars. Families and friends gather for a reunion, a day of thanks, and a festive meal.
Thanksgiving meals are traditionally family events where certain kinds of food are served. [...] In keeping with the holiday theme of giving thanks, during the socializing or meal, people talk about what they are thankful for or tell about experiences during the past year which have caused them to feel grateful" 3.
Words are powerful symbols and can inspire thankful thoughts. Choose one word (or a group of words) from the list below and write freely about what they personally mean to you.
Thankfulness, gratitude, abundance, service, honor, togetherness, warmth, security, family, football, tradition, November, Harvest Festival, fourth Thursday in November, Macy's Thanksgiving Parade, Thanksgiving Proclamation, George Washington, 1789, Pilgrims, settlers, Indians, fall, autumn, feast, turkey, gravy, dressing, stuffing, corn, yams with marshmallows, pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips, cranberry sauce, corn bread, Christmas shopping, Black Friday, Cyber Monday
What do you know about the history of Thanksgiving? Do you believe the Thanksgiving holiday has been romanticized? What does your own research about Thanksgiving reveal? Does it differ from the narritive you learned about in school?
Do you think the history of Thanksgiving Day matters to people? Is the current meaning of a holiday celebration or family tradition more important than its roots?
What does celebrating Thanksgiving represent or symbolize to you?
Do you spend Thanksgiving day alone or with others? How would prefer to spend it? Does being with people make the event more special?
Thanksgiving day is an American holiday, but do you think an annual "day of thanks" should be celebrated earth-wide? Do you feel the focus on the positive in our lives is too often overlooked in favor of the negative or sensational? Should we celebrate thankfulness more often?
Does your family gather together at Thanksgiving? If so, do members travel great distances and put a lot of effort to get together and make the event memorable? What do you enjoy about this event?
How does Thanksgiving Day normally go at your house? Does it go smoothly or is it a time of family stress or disagreement? Is the gathering of loved ones more important in the overall scheme of things than the conflicts that may arise? What does family mean to you?
Do you watch football games on Thanksgiving Day? Or perhaps the annual Macey's Thanksgiving Day parade to see all the creative floats and balloons? What has been the most memorable Thanksgiving entertainment you remember? Do you have other family traditions you follow such as watching favorite shows or films like A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving or Alice's Restaurant?
Do you remember celebrating your first Thanksgiving dinner with your family? How old were you? Who did you sit next to? What did you eat? What else do you remember about it?
If you are an adult, do you remember preparing your first Thanksgiving dinner for your family? What was the experience like? Was the turkey dry? Did you follow your mother's traditional recipe? Did you deep fry your turkey? Did you burn a casserole? Can you look back on the "bad" experiences with humor and perspective now remembering what your gaffs taught you and helped you to improve for the next time?
Is Thanksgiving a time for "thanks" and "gratitude" for you? Or are you primarily focused on preparing a meal or entertaining guests? If you go to someone else's home, are you able to truly enjoy yourself? Why or why not? What do you focus on during Thanksgiving week?
What are you truly thankful and grateful for this year?
Thanksgiving often symbolizes abundance in a cornicopia of good foods during harvest time. What do you feel about the idea of abundance in your community? How about in the world?
How do you feel about abundance in your life when you see others who lack abundance? What causes scarcity and lack?
Some volunteer their time and resources in soup kitchens, shelters, and towards other charitable causes before, during, and after Thanksgiving Day to help serve those in need. Some people do not have families to share the day with or the means to have a traditional dinner. Have you ever had the opportunity to use your time and talents to serve others? Thanksgiving week inspires many to think about helping others in their communities and learn about opportunities to help others year-round.
The Friday after Thanksgiving is known in the United States as "Black Friday" and is the biggest shopping day of the year that kicks off the Christmas shopping season. Many people line up at stores doors early in the day to take advantage of black Friday deals. The following Monday, or "Cyber Monday" is the Internet's counterpart. What are your thougths about these events? What if you could create another tradition that would stretch the values of Thanksgiving for a few days more. What would you call it and what would it invite you to do?
Copyright ©2014, 2019 Chris Dunmire. All rights reserved.
1. Wilfred Grenfell - Wikipedia. (2019) Retrieved November 24, 2019, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilfred_Grenfell
2. Sir Wilfred Grenfell MD | Canadian Medical Hall of Fame. Retrieved November 24, 2019, from http://www.cdnmedhall.org/inductees/wilfredgrenfell
3. Thanksgiving - Wikipedia. (2019) Retrieved November 24, 2019, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thanksgiving
"The First Thanksgiving", painted by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris (1863–1930) 3.