Thanksgiving cards are starting to arrive at our office so it must be time to gear up for another Turkey Trot! Several years ago a few members of our family were inspired to participate in the Tyler Turkey Trot 5K, held each year on Thanksgiving morning. It’s really a good and healthy idea to get some exercise in before the food fest of Thanksgiving begins. That little bit of exercise (and small dinner plates) can help avoid the overeating that can ensue when all that great food starts coming out of the oven over the holidays. This year’s race is supporting For the Silent, a local charity that works to end the exploitation of vulnerable youth.  

In addition to food and football, Thanksgiving is often a relaxed gathering of family that otherwise might be separated by distance or busy schedules. Family gatherings can be good opportunities to discuss traditions, values, and things for which you are thankful. I know there are also several families that look forward to Thanksgiving gatherings to discuss their family philanthropy. Some even require bringing a charity for discussion as the price of admission. No charity to discuss, no turkey for you. I’m sure it’s not that strict, but the idea is to come prepared with some information to share with the family about what organization you want to support and why the family should consider a contribution. Whether you are meeting to make decisions about family giving or just sharing time together and reflecting on your blessings, here are a couple of conversation starters that might help you make great memories. 

In my family, we have a “corny” tradition that literally involves candy corn. After the main Thanksgiving meal, each person seated at the dinner table has three pieces of candy corn at their place setting. (If you have younger children or grandchildren, you might pass these out after the meal or have extras on hand for hungry children that can’t resist the temptation.) We go around the table and share three things we are thankful for, one for each piece of candy. Once you share, you can enjoy your candy! We take turns and make three rounds around the table, but there are no hard and fast rules you need to follow. The thoughts and comments are funny and serious, reflecting joy, sadness, accomplishments, and challenges. Looking back after the loss of my father last year, the memories and emotions around this simple tradition are powerful. My dad had no problem sharing the many things for which he was thankful. His only problem was limiting his gratitude to three things. His mantra was “I am blessed”. Maybe you can use this corny idea to make some of your own memories. If candy corn is not available you can use any candy or treat. Don’t let the details keep you from enjoying the experience.  

Another idea for thoughtful family conversations is a joy and sadness meeting suggested by Carol Weisman in her book, Raising Charitable Children. I think her approach would work well at a Thanksgiving family gathering. Carol suggests going around the room and having each person share a response to the question, “In the last year, what made you happy?” After that round is complete, go around again and answer the question, “In the last year (or longer), what made you cry or feel sad?” These simple questions can be answered by almost anyone of any age and ability. Carol suggests using the joy and sadness meeting to reveal values and concerns, and then to think about charities that could help bring the same joy to others or relieve their sadness. Outcomes identified through the process in her book include supporting a local theater, suggested by a child who is an actor and personally experiences the anxiety of auditioning for plays; and supporting an animal shelter that finds loving homes for pets like the puppy that brought joy to a five-year-old boy. This is a great way to turn your joy and sadness into meaningful, personal charitable gifts.     Best wishes to you and your family for a joyous Thanksgiving filled with meaningful conversations about faith, family, and philanthropy. Using one of these simple exercises to share your thankfulness and gratitude with your loved ones this week may lead to your next best opportunity to Give Well.