So how do you show your gratitude? Do you like to buy people gift cards or stuff them full of freshly baked cookies?
We’ve got a better idea. A few of them, in fact. Let us help you really convey the gratitude you wish to express with these simple and easy ways.
Gratitude trees are an easy way for people to see the gratitude piling up-- or in this case, leafing out! They’re super easy to make, low-cost, and a fun project for everyone to do. It’s also highly adaptable.
To make one, simply cut pieces of construction paper to look like a tree trunk with bare branches-- or collect a bunch of tree branches, tie them together and plunk them in a flowerpot with some stones to weight it down and keep the branches in place. Next, cut leaves out of paper-- you can use colored paper and free online clipart for templates-- get the kids involved with it if they’re old enough to use scissors!
Figure out how you want to attach the leaves to the tree-- do you want to attach string and let them hang? Tape? Push-pins?
The traditional way to do a gratitude tree is for everyone to write something or someone that they’re grateful for down on a leaf-- one leaf at a time-- and hang it on the tree. You can change this up a bit, and write down the names of everyone for whom you are grateful, one on each leaf. If you’re using the traditional method, we recommend having a station set up to do this.
At the end of Thanksgiving dinner, take a family picture with the tree as a reminder of the love and gratitude that make you all a family, regardless of blood. Make it a new Thanksgiving tradition!
If you’re the crafty type, you could reuse the leaves as a background for some scrapbooking with the pictures you took that day. What a wonderful keepsake to hand down or gift someone!
Nothing says gratitude for who and what you have in your life quite like donating in somebody’s name to a cause that’s close to their heart. This will take some skillful inquiry, if you’re not already sure what charitable causes light their fire.
No matter what, please remember that this is something that you’re doing for THEM, not yourself. So even if it’s a charity whose work you dislike or with whom you disagree, you may want to take a different route.
Whether you choose international, domestic, or local charities is entirely up to you-- however, do some research before you donate and make sure that you know exactly how much of the donation is going to reach the target. If it’s only 30%, consider looking for another organization-- maybe on that actually donates 100% or close to it.
If they’re passionate about social justice, consider groups that work with minority or underprivileged children and teens. Organizations that cater to the underserved elderly population are always a good idea, and they tend to be smaller and more localized. You could also donate your time by visiting the elderly in nursing homes. Homeless shelters always need help-- in donations of money, goods, and time.
Something else that a lot of people don’t think about is donating time at hospices or children’s hospitals so that family has a break. Many such places have Adopt-a-Grandparent or similar program, and children’s hospitals also need volunteers to rock children to sleep.
Animal shelters need blankets and towels for rescues, and food donations always help. Try to donate something that could be hard to come buy, like food for dogs or cats that might have a sensitive stomach or gluten allergy.
Donating for sports fanatics can be as easy as donating to a local little league or other sports teams. Art lovers will fawn a donation to the local Council of the Arts, and theatre geeks will applaud donations to a Footlighters club.
Christmas, Hanukkah and other gift-giving holidays are just around the corner, but putting together a little something to help those you love to take care of themselves during these stressful times is really appreciated. Care packages are always a good way to express gratitude. And it doesn’t have to cost much, either.
Most people have baking soda around for cleaning. But it’s also the main ingredient in bath bombs, along with Epsom salts-- which a lot of folks have for soaking. Combine them with some cornstarch and citric acid, some essential oils-- plus a little neutral oil like grapeseed or jojoba or hemp-- and form them into bath bombs. (A great kid-friendly project!) Let them dry for a few days and bag them up to give to relatives!
Another great bath kit will require you to purchase some powdered milk, tea, and rosewater. (This also makes a great hostess gift!) Milk leaves skin hydrated and exfoliated, while the tannins in black tea calm inflammation-- both of them leave your hair silky soft! We recommend Celestial Seasonings Bengal Spice or a good cinnamon-infused tea for this. Print out directions on pretty paper for how to combine them for a great bath: two cups of milk, two cups of strongly brewed tea, a generous sprinkling of rosewater. Turn off the phone, lock the door, light candles and enjoy!
For something special that won’t cost you any money, type up or hand-write some of those family recipes that are always requested at potlucks, picnics and birthdays. Even if you use something basic like MS Word or Google Docs, you can choose a readable font and include pictures of the loved ones who started the recipe as a family tradition.
We saved the best for last… just help them out! Everyone’s lives are stressful and not just around the holidays. Give each person on your Gratitude List a certificate that entitles them to your help.
They got shopping to do? Pick a day to pick up the kids from school, feed them, help with homework, and get them to bed. Offer to babysit for a kid-free date night among adults-- maybe even keep the kiddos overnight so they can have quality time alone! Do they have an action-packed week ahead with school plays and sports events? Make a whole dinner and take it over to them so they have one less thing to worry about. Maybe even make two or three so they don’t have to cook all week.
Snow is coming in most areas of the United States, and shoveling is everyone’s least favorite chore. Take the shovel or snow blower over and help clear their sidewalks and cars. Bring salt, too. And take out the trash, so they don’t have to freeze.
Salt on car paint is a bad thing, and nobody likes opening dirty car doors and getting dried muck all over their gloves. Pay for a great car wash, vacuum the inside, check the air pressure in the tires, and fill up the gas tank. Check the oil too. After all, the holiday season is a peak travel season-- so making sure that your loved ones can travel safely is a really sweet thing that’s also practical and doesn’t cost a lot of money.
But do you know what the ultimate mark of gratitude is for the person hosting Thanksgiving? Doing the dishes. That’s right-- help out! Offer to cook some of the dishes, and help parcel up leftovers for people to take home. When the dishwasher is full and running, pull on the dish gloves and fire up the sink. Let the hostess rest her feet with a glass of wine while you tackle the kitchen!
Finally, we highly recommend writing the people for whom you’re grateful a letter that tells them just that. It may take a while-- plan for a few days of writing and a stiff dominant hand-- but letter-writing is a very personal venture that’s going out of style. Taking the time to handwrite a letter that’s at least a couple of pages long means a lot-- it shows you care in a way that you’re want to invest time into them. And who doesn’t like being told that they’re doing a good job as a human being? Choose some stationary that suits your personality, stop at the post office to get some stamps, and get writing. Tell them stories about how you became grateful for their existence in your life, and be sure to include copies of any pictures that might relate to the stories. If you have kids, let them draw pictures in the margins of the letter-- or better yet, have them write their own to their friends and family. The virtue of gratitude is that it’s free, and yet it means so much-- so teaching kids to express it young is important.
We’re grateful to you, our readers, this Thanksgiving season. We wouldn’t trade you for the world! Tag the person for whom you’re grateful in the comments below!