I’m doing Thanksgiving a little differently this year.

That doesn’t mean I’ll be making any changes to the traditional meal, or abandoning time-honored practices and customs that go along with the day. And it certainly doesn’t mean I won’t be thinking, talking, or writing about all of the people and things I am grateful for.

What it means is that before I focus on the “thanks” part of Thanksgiving this year, I’m going to concentrate on the “giving” part. I want to spend time reflecting on the giving that goes on in my life. In both directions.

There are different types of giving, of course. One is the money that we donate to church and charity, and to causes that are important to us. Or to family and friends when a special need comes up or when tragedy strikes.

There is also the time that we give to others – or they give to us – that can make even more of a difference than money. A business book I recently read pointed out that time is our most valuable resource, and that when we spend it on good clients, great friends, and busy children, we are using it wisely. The author challenged readers to think back to people they knew who were extremely generous with their time, and to remember the effect it had on them.

There are many other types of giving, and acts of giving – some of which we’re not even aware. Or we don’t think of them in terms of “giving.” But if we actively and deliberately look for them, if we take the time to recognize and reflect on them, we will see them everywhere. And that’s what I want to do on Thanksgiving this year.

We give to others when we give them our undivided attention, rather than allowing ourselves to be rushed or distracted. When we give others the benefit of the doubt, rather than making assumptions, jumping to conclusions, or pre-judging, we are giving something valuable to ourselves as well as to them.

Simple, thoughtful gestures are powerful acts of giving. Not long ago a friend gave me – for no particular reason or occasion – a lovely little trinket box that said, “Don’t follow your dreams, chase them” on the cover, and that held a bright and colorful rainbow magnet inside. It was a gift I will treasure, from someone who knows me well enough to recognize something that’s important and meaningful to me, and who took the time to acknowledge it.

Thinking about the giving that goes on in our lives is not about keeping score, or about justifying and bragging – even if only to ourselves – how much we’ve given to or gotten from others. It’s simply about remembering how blessed we are. It’s about realizing that we have others who care about us and want to share what they have with us. And about recognizing that there are others in our lives for whom we want to do the same.

When I stop to think about it – and I mean really stop, think, remember, and reflect – I start to see how much and how often I have given to others, and how much and how often they have given to me. It’s humbling, it’s rewarding, and it reminds me once again how much there is in my life to appreciate and celebrate.

And for that I give thanks.

Happy Thanksgiving!

The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on November 27, 2013.
©Betty Liedtke, 2013

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