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Thanksgiving: It’s Easy to Miss the Point

A woman rushed into the atrium of a church that was collecting food for tens of thousands of Thanksgiving Day meals here in Cincinnati.

This particular church was the drop-off site for all of the meals. Hordes of volunteers dressed in hilarious holiday garb cheered as they hoisted boxes of food from thousands of cars in the expertly organized line.

One woman didn’t realize there was a system to the drop-off process despite well marked and well thought out directions for doing so. (Hey, we all have our days, right?) Instead, she brought her donation into the church itself, with her 2 young children in tow.

“Thanks so much for returning your box today. And actually, they must be dropped off across the street so they can be organized correctly and immediately for delivery. It’s very quick though, so it will only take a few minutes.”

The woman swiftly scooped the box off the counter saying, “You TRY to do something nice for people and THIS is what happens.”

Maybe your first response would be like mine, “Wow, it’s sad that she’s missing the point of giving in the first place.”

Then I thought, “Have I ever been this woman? So wrapped up in whatever was going on in my life that even an effort born out of gratitude could become a casualty of my unconsciousness?”

I’m sure I have been. In big and small ways, maybe we all have.

It’s easy to miss the point.

Between the ‘black Friday’ sales, the stores decorated for Christmas, preparing for a holiday with family and grabbing the last box of stuffing off the grocery store shelves, the feeling of thankfulness can elude us.

The only weapon I know of to combat this hamster-wheel-of-holiday-stress is intention. Just like intentional caregiving in the NICU, deciding why and how you engage in each situation in your life changes how you show up.

The woman in the atrium might’ve had the worst morning ever. Who knows. Or maybe getting that box of food to that church on that morning was the first time she ever reached outside of herself at this time of year, a time that’s normally hard for her. Then she felt like she didn’t do it right and got defensive.

Point is: you have a choice about how you show up.

The hard part is being aware enough to remember that.

This week, and for the next month, rather than running on the holiday hamster wheel or numbing out with food, busy-ness, or purchases, be intentional instead. Even if you’re rolling your eyes right now, try it just once.

  • My intention as I enter _______’s home for Thanksgiving is: ____________________.
  • My intention is to teach my children that gratitude looks like _________________.
  • My intention is to let go of _____(hurt)______ that no longer serves me so I can be present for the people who love me and the work that inspires me.
  • My intention is to have a blast this holiday season.
  • My intention is to sit quietly for 5 minutes and remember how fortunate I am to be healthy.

Maybe you’re in charge of dessert, veggies, stuffing or turkey for Thanksgiving.

But what will you really bring to the table?

(And to those families who never expected to spend Thanksgiving in the NICU- we’re thinking of you and are grateful for your trust in us.)