The Creative Imperative

How innovation and play beget wellbeing

Stop Giving Thanks!

Why charity, not gratitude, is the secret to abundance

As we rumble towards Thanksgiving, our thoughts naturally turn away from the daily grind, and towards the uniquely American trifecta of Turkey, Touchdowns, and Thank Yous.  Many of us stop our lives on a dime and rush home to be close to our families and frenemies.  Some of us even take a moment from the mayhem to offer a prayer or give thanks for what we have, and reflect on our many blessings.

If that sounds like what’s on your menu for the next few days, why not do something different this year? 

Words of gratitude are necessary, but they are not sufficient.  We all appreciate and value kind words, but they can disappear faster than Pillsbury Crescent Rolls (This is not a paid endorsement, I genuinely love those things). Words, like, Black Friday specials can quicky lose their value when they are delivered between Kung Fu kicks to the face.  

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In contrast, charity goes on and on and on. 

This Thanksgiving:

Stop Giving Thanks.  Start Giving Charity. 

Giving charity does not necessarily mean giving money. There are plenty of ways you can give that have nothing to do with money. Charity can come in the form of time, effort, or just plain kindness.

The beautiful thing about charity is that it is an absolute good, which is to say; it doesn’t matter why you do it.  It only matters that you do it.  A person in need does not care that the reason you gave them money is because you wanted a tax break, nor does a person in need of medical care consider that the reason you donated to  a hospital was because you wanted to impress your boss. 

You give. They benefit.  Everybody wins.

If you feel the abundance, charity probably comes naturally to you.  You can’t help but want to give of yourself because charity works on literal and symbolic levels.  It is kindness put into action as well as a symbol of the fortune you feel inside.  Even if you are not feeling full, giving charity can create that experience.  Giving forms a connection between people.  It creates positive energy and that good energy helps both you and your beneficiary.

Sharing is the essence – the key – the secret to reaping the harvest of a life filled with play, purpose, and work.  When you give, you receive.

I hope that this heavy-handed article finds its way into the eyes, minds, and hearts of those who need it most.  If it influences even one soul to give more during this season of plenty, then the time I have spent writing it (while, admittedly also avoiding the paperwork that is sitting to my left and giving me the stink eye), will be worth its weight in gold.

Best wishes for a Happy (and Giving) Thanksgiving! 

Ben Michaelis, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist who specializes in helping patients achieve mental health and well-being through creative expression.

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