Volunteering & Kindness: Secrets to a Meaningful Thanksgiving

By: NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinski-Choo

Since we started making turkey-themed crafts in kindergarten, we’ve been taught that being grateful is important. However, this year I challenge you not just to share your gratitude at Thanksgiving dinner, but to also be proactive with your thanks by expressing it to those you appreciate most. The word “Thanksgiving” does after all imply giving thanks not just saying thanks. Here are some ways individuals and organizations can give thanks through kindness and volunteerism:

 

For Individuals

Say Thanks to Friends and Family.

Here’s an interesting exercise. Take out a piece of paper and write down the names of one hundred people you know and interact with. These don’t have to be the people closest to you or the people you know best. The idea is simply to write continuously. So this means writing down the names of whoever comes to mind regardless of their importance. The only requirement is they are people who have been a part of your life at some point. Don’t overthink it and don’t read the list right away. Leave it for a few days, and then review the list.

Now, reread your list and star the people most important to you. You may find yourself erasing some names or adding ones you forgot, but don’t feel guilty about your changes. Perhaps your list is short, or perhaps it is rather extensive. The length is not important, but the thought put into it is.  The objective to keep in mind is not to rank your friends’ importance to you, but rather pinpoint who has had a significant impact on you. This Thanksgiving, instead of generically saying you are thankful for your friends and family, try to reflect on exactly how and why you are thankful for them. What is it about each person on your list that makes them important, and how might your list need to change? Finally, express your thanks by telling these people how much you appreciate them. This might be by sending an email, writing a letter or short note, or giving them a call. It’s important to surround yourself with people who are helping you live a happier life. Hopefully this exercise will help you reflect on the importance of others in your life.

Say Thanks to Your Community.

One of the best ways to show your thanks for all that you have in life is to help those less fortunate than you. This is a great way to spur a service-learning project. Contemplate some basic things you have to be thankful for, such as food, a home, good health, and a job, just to name a few. Now, how can you show your appreciation for material things? Share them with others. Consider this example:

UNEP reports that roughly a third of the food produced for human consumption every year is wasted. In the United States, 30% of food is thrown away accounting for the second highest source of waste in landfills. At the same time, according to Feeding America, almost 15% of households in America are food insecure. Clearly this is a problem with a feasible solution; that solution is simply being thrown in the trash. In your local community, you could contact local restaurants and grocery stores to find out how much of their food is wasted and how that food could be repurposed to help others. This basic formula could be applied to a countless number of situations. By doing this, you are showing your gratitude and using this as an occasion to help others.

 

For Organizations and Communities

Say Thanks to Volunteers.

Volunteers do so much good, and they do it without expecting repayment, but that doesn’t mean their work should go unnoticed. Showing your appreciation could be as simple as saying “thank you” and letting volunteers know their time and talent aren’t taken for granted. At least once a year, write thank you notes to each of your volunteers. You might also consider planning a volunteer appreciation event like a luncheon, dinner, or awards ceremony. Thanking volunteers is not just the right thing to do, but it also a good strategy for keeping volunteers interested and involved in your cause.

Say Thanks to Donors.

If your organization or service project relies on an outside source of funding, take the opportunity this Thanksgiving to thank those that have contributed financially to your cause. Applying for a grant or asking for donations is usually the first obstacle in turning an idea into a reality. This may come from individual donors, grants, or a combination of the two. Call, email, or write a letter expressing sincere gratitude for their aid. Let them know how the project is going and how their money has contributed to its success.

This Thanksgiving, reflect on what you are grateful for by making a conscious effort to express your thanks. Remind yourself to be thankful all year, not just once a year. What are your favorite ways to give back?

Do you want to discover more ways to give back to your community? Sign up for your free NobleHour account today to find meaningful opportunities near you!