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Turning gratitude into action this Thanksgiving
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Our Thanks Turkey helps us verbalize why we are grateful each year. - photo by Erin Stewart
Thanksgiving often gets lost between the sugar high of Halloween and the retail rush of Black Friday. Lets be honest, turkeys and Pilgrims are not very glamorous, and Thanksgiving got the short end of the stick when it comes to holiday colors. Its hard to get too excited about the tan color spectrum.

But in our home, we try to carve out some space for giving thanks in the form of a somewhat ridiculous Thankful Turkey. We tape this construction-paper invention to our window each November and we spend the month adoring our turkey with feathers, each one inscribed with something for which we are thankful.

I love seeing what my children are thankful for because they range from candy to Jesus to heat.

All in all, I have been pretty happy with our effort to pay homage to the oft-forgotten Thanksgiving. That is, until I read this quote this month that stopped me in my tracks:

Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving, said author and scholar W.T. Purkiser.

These wise words made me consider how I could turn my familys Thanksgiving into an action rather than expression. As we watch heartbreak from families around the world in Paris, Syria and maybe right next door, what am I doing to help? Rather than just say why I am grateful this year, Im using this quote as a guide to truly give thanks by using my blessings to bless others.

So instead of simply sticking on a feather and proclaiming our gratitude, we are going to look deeper and also come up with a plan to act on our gratitude.

For example, we are particularly thankful this year for a new home that we will be moving into during the Thanksgiving break. After living on top of each other in a basement bedroom for four months, we are grateful for the space and the security of our own home.

So, how can we turn that gratitude into action? First, we donated money to the Syrian crisis because there are families who dont have homes and children sleeping on the ground while my own children sleep in warm beds. We can also offer our home when needed for church functions, neighborhood get-togethers or even just Sunday dinner for someone living alone.

The possibilities for turning gratitude into action are limitless. Thankful for a job? Go the extra mile this month at work. Grateful for freedom? Write a letter to a serviceman. Thankful there is always food on the table? Take a load to the local food bank for families who dont have that luxury.

My children are grateful for their toys, so we packed up shoeboxes of toys for children in the Operation Christmas Child program.

Actionable gratitude doesnt have to be some enormous service project, either. Im grateful for my health this year, so Im using my body by working out more often and carefully considering what I put into it to keep it healthy.

This year, Im hopeful that we can truly give thanks with our hearts and our hands. As we transform our attitude of gratitude into action, our thanks will be more than words that are easily spoken and quickly forgotten.

Instead, our holiday might be one of true Thanksgiving as we allow gratitude to not only fill our hearts, but fuel our lives.