Wednesday, November 23, 2011

21 Days of Gratitude Challenge

I love Thanksgiving.  Although the origins of the Thanksgiving holiday are in dispute, what seems clear is that it was a feast shared amongst two communities --the Plymouth settlers and the Wampamoag Tribe -- to celebrate the bountiful harvest.  Some versions of the holiday were celebrated in various places in the colonies and states afterward.  In 1863, a war beleaguered  President Abraham Lincoln made it official. It was a brilliant idea to set aside a day specifically for being grateful not only for the table heaped with food, but especially for the community on whom we depend.

This time of year I make lists of people for whom I am grateful.  I began this tradition several years ago as a way to kick-start a fund-raising team.  Starting tomorrow on Thanksgiving and for 21 days I will honor each day people who have had a life-changing effect on me.  I have a simple way to call them to mind; here is how I am making my list this year:
  • 3 people I am concerned about
  • 3 people who help me in my daily life
  • 3 people who have servant's hearts
  • 3 figures from history
  • 3 "elders" from my "tribe"
  • 3 teachers or mentors
  • 3 community leaders 
Once I make the list, I put the names on my calendar along with an action for each one.  I will write thank-you notes, make phone calls and set lunch dates with some of these folks.  For others I will offer a meal or a dedicated prayer time on their behalf. I may write a poem, a memorial essay or a blog.  I will read a book or watch a video about my historical figures; at least one of these will be a children's book shared with my kids. As I go through this season, I will talk to my family about whom I am celebrating and why.  Maybe in this way, I can plant the seeds of gratitude in them, as well.

These 21 days are a part of my private advent prepartion; they serve to remind me of how truly fortunate I am and how much I depend on my community.  They take my focus off shopping and eating and help me put my mind on the true meaning of the holiday season -- both Thanksgiving and Christmas.  These remembrances inspire, evoke and humble me.
I challenge you to try it for yourself.  (And let me know if you do!)

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