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What Are You Bringing To Thanksgiving?

A woman rushed into the atrium of a church that was collecting Thanksgiving Day meals for thousands of people in Cincinnati and abroad.

Hoards 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. They actually must be dropped off across the street so they can be organized correctly and immediately for delivery. The line moves very quickly 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, “It’s sad that she’s missing the point of giving in the first place.”

Then a second thought hit me, “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.

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 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. Regardless, I’m pretty sure being judged by strangers is not what she (or anyone) needs. I soften into compassion and turn a mirror to myself.

It’s easy for any of us to miss the point at this time of year.

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 authentic 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.

And you have a choice about how you show up.

The challenge is being aware enough to remember this. 

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.)