Can you think of the last time you actively sought out ways to give back to people in need? If you’re anything like me, that question may have you wracking your brain for the last time you held the door open or cast a stranger a smile. In truth, the world in which we live and work can be fast-paced and competitive, making it a fight to simply take notice of the people around us. This Thanksgiving, I encourage you to turn your gaze outward and become a more active player in the grand game of giving. The benches are full enough.
What follow are five simple yet fulfilling ways to get the generous juices flowing among yourself and your family members this Thanksgiving. Looking to break up a dreary November afternoon? Throw on your favorite flannel, pack up the kids in the car, and consider trying one of the following activities!
1. Pay it Forward
Have you ever pulled up to a drive-through window just to be told that the person in front of you has paid for your entire order? Is it not the best feeling? I love this activity because it is so easy yet so impactful. From the comfort of your own car, you can simply pull up to a drive-through and ask to pay for the order of the person behind you. Then, you can go about your day knowing that the whole time that person is sipping their coffee or munching on their French fries, they are praising the generosity of a stranger.
2. Craft a Charity Basket
Is your cupboard bursting with cans of corn, beans and soup that you know you’ll never get around to eating? You may consider adding these and other non-perishable food items to a Thanksgiving charity basket! This can be a fun and crafty activity to do with your family, as you can arrange items the way you’d like to and then adorn the basket with colorful bows, confetti and tissue paper. Useful items to include in a charity basket include toothpaste, soap, candles, earbuds, feminine products and more. When your charity basket is ready to send out into the world, you can use this Homeless Shelter Directory to locate homeless shelters near you.
3. Perform a Goodwill Dump
If I sifted through the clothing in my closet on any given day, I could probably find at least three items that I’m never going to wear again in my life. Goodwill and Salvation Army are two organizations that accept donations in the form of used clothing, shoes, furniture, books and more. Consider spending a Saturday gathering items your family doesn’t need anymore and dropping them off at your local Goodwill.
4. Leave Notes to Strangers
This is another astoundingly simple activity that can truly make a person’s day. For this one, think of something brief and motivational to scrawl on a colorful sticky note. Then, post the note somewhere in public, where it will be visible to strangers. The corner bathroom stall, perhaps, or the space below a door handle. It’s up to you.
5. Participate in Your Local Turkey Trot
I promise you read that right. I know what you’re thinking. You want me to run a road race in the dead of November? When I could be jamming to holiday music and taste-testing dishes in preparation for the feast? And my answer is yes. There are plenty of races on Thanksgiving Day and the weekends leading up to it that boast events for both you and the little ones. Running a road race is no negligible feat, and it encourages you to be grateful for fresh air, physical ability and group sport. Additionally, lots of road races donate their proceeds to charitable causes and/or the surrounding community. Use this link to find a specific race in your area.
There’s nothing like being the recipient of a gesture that reinforces how worthy all of us are of good things. Below is a picture depicting someone else’s random gesture of kindness. This person –– a perfect stranger –– dropped off this coffee to me at work one day. To this day, its message still remains with me.
Be the giving force in someone else’s life today, and check out the Cardinal Rule Press website to explore books that encourage positive traits –– including generosity –– among children.
A senior in the University of Michigan-Flint’s Secondary English Teacher’s Certificate Program, Lauren is an aspiring writer and English educator. Along with interning at Cardinal Rule Press, Lauren has worked for UM-Flint’s Writing Center and student newspaper. She enjoys running, being outside, and (naturally) reading in her spare time.