During the next few weeks we will be celebrating two holidays that are separate, yet connected. Families across the country will gather to share dinner, memories and more both at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Thanksgiving is a perfect time to recall all the blessings we have received during the past year. Yes, things have happened that may not have seemed like blessings – the death of loved ones, sicknesses that just don’t want to go away, loss of jobs and other life-changing events. Sometimes it is very hard to look past the loss to see the blessing that might be waiting on the other side.

But we all have been given many blessings this year. New friendships and new family members, beautiful sunrises (if you have the inclination to get out of bed that early!) and beautiful sunsets, the glorious autumn colors we just enjoyed, beautiful flowers dotting the hillsides all summer and birds singing their sweet songs of praise in the morning are just a few of the blessings we all were able to enjoy.

Each one of us, if we would take the time and be honest and sincere, could also list a multitude of blessings that were given to us personally – not necessarily for everyone else to share, but as a reminder that someone does care about each of us.

When we gather at the Thanksgiving table, whether as a family, a couple or a single person maybe with a pet or two or three, will we really start the meal by giving thanks for all those blessings? Our thanks shouldn’t be just the repetition of a few words we learned as a child, but a sincere giving of thanks for all we have received this year.

Perhaps already our thoughts have turned to the giving part of these holidays. First we give thanks for all we have been given. And then it is time to give something in return.

In today’s economy, it’s not easy to know what to give to whom. But there are always those around us – sometimes closer than we might realize – who need something that we can give. It has been said many, many times that it is more blessed to give than to receive. True, we all like to be on the receiving end of gifts given because someone truly cares. But the feeling of hearing gratitude in the voice of one who had expected to receive nothing but was remembered by someone, to see the joy in the face of someone (regardless of their age) when they realize that someone really did care enough to remember them at Christmas – those are gifts we can give to ourselves simply by taking the time to think about someone else, and put a little bit of action into our thoughts.

I love the challenge of shopping and looking for gifts that I hope will bring happiness to those receiving them. This year I have added some strangers to my list, making the challenge even greater. And hopefully, when Christmas dawns, I will receive the blessing of hearing my heavenly father say, “Well done.”

We still have a couple weeks to think about all the things for which we should give thanks before we enjoy our Thanksgiving dinner. And then we will have a few more weeks not only to think about, but to experience the joy of giving from the heart – the true meaning of Christmas.

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Thought for the week – Give thanks for a little and you will find a lot. (Hausa proverb)

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