Grateful Giving :: Teaching Kids About Gratitude

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I have always felt that poor Thanksgiving is the most overlooked holiday of the year.

It almost seems like stores go straight from 4th of July to Christmas, skipping over one of my favorite holidays. Last year my son (who was just 6 at the time) noticed that our grocery store literally changed overnight from having pumpkins out front and an entire aisle of Halloween candy to little evergreen trees outside and an entire aisle of Christmas candy. He said, “Wow Mommy, holidays sure change fast around here!” Perceptive kid.

Don’t get me wrong, I start playing Christmas music the day after Halloween, if Thanksgiving had a station on Pandora, you better believe I would be playing it. But just because I jump to the music of Christmas, it doesn’t mean I have forgotten about Thanksgiving Day – or as it should be named – Giving Thanks Day.

Okay I will admit it. I love stuffing. I love gravy. So yes, I love Thanksgiving dinner.

I love spending the day in a warm kitchen cooking and catching up with family. I love playing games and watching football after the meal. But most of all I love giving thanks for the family around the table, and the warm house, and the ability to have an uncomfortably full stomach (from all the gravy)!

I want my children to know the true spirit of Thanksgiving, that it’s not just the day before Black Friday. (Which by the way, don’t even get me started about Black Friday!! I know people love it, but crushing each other for a cheap flat screen TV just hours after giving thanks for all we have the world? Agh. Sorry, I digressed.)

A couple weeks ago the United Way mailed out a Grateful Giving Calendar for the month of November.

It’s a super simple concept, each day of the month read the calendar and put some money in a jar for what each day suggests. Example: $1 for a working furnace, .25 cents if you have your own bed, $1 if you have more than 8 cans of food in your cupboards, etc. We loved the idea and my husband and I started off the month putting in the money. You can probably guess where I am going with this…the first time I asked my kids to go get their banks so they could add in the money for that day, “WAIT! WHAT? WE HAVE TO USE OUR OWN MONEY?” That’s when I realized I needed to explain the calendar a little bit more and have a discussion about how we have a lot to be thankful for and how we can spare some for someone having a tough time.

The United Way provided a list of local charities (page 2 of the calendar) as suggestions for the estimated $15 that the calendar would generate per family. It also explained what $15 means someone in need; “A Thanksgiving dinner for 4, or electrical costs for a day at a local shelter.” We decided the money would go towards purchasing food for an upcoming food shelf donation event at my son’s elementary school, the kids are getting really excited to fill the jar so we can go buy the food. I think having them participate in the daily calendar and in the decision of where to donate the money is making it a lot more real for them instead of dropping off some groceries at the food shelf.

I am guessing I might hear some more grumblings about putting their own money in the jar before the month is out, they are just kids after all. But for now we’re concentrating on being grateful for the things we have and how we can help others at the same time.

p.s. stayed tuned for my plan for a December “Reverse” Advent Calendar that I saw on Pinterest! Woohoo!

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Jennifer Rath grew up in a tower with long, magical hair and a pet chameleon. Scratch that. Jennifer traded her mermaid tail for legs in exchange for her voice. Sorry about that, one too many movies lately. Jennifer Rath is a stay at home mom of two little crazies; boy 7.5, girl 4 (going on 14.) Her husband is full time with the Minnesota National Guard (Go Red Bulls!) Jennifer worked for a large travel marketing firm in Minneapolis for 15 years before moving to Mankato 8 years ago. She prided herself on being able to pack for a 3 week work trip to Kenya or Peru or China in one small suitcase, but now fills the car to the roof for an overnight in Park Rapids. But she wouldn’t change a thing. Even if you offered her magical hair or a mermaid tail.