Kimberly Sena Moore Ph.D.

Your Musical Self

How to Be Creatively Thankful

6 Inspired Ways to Share Your Gratitude This Thanksgiving

Posted Nov 23, 2010

I have fond memories of family dinners at Grandmother's apartment in the heart of DC. Dinners were lovely, formal affairs. My sister and I wore dresses or skirts. Grandmother always used china, silver, and "real" napkins. It was a multi-course meal that included bread, the main entree, salad, and dessert. Once we sat at the table, you didn't get up until the meal was over (not even to use the restroom!).

And I remember saying two graces, one at the beginning of the meal and one at the end. Graces were mumbled through quickly in a rote kind of way, heads bowed, hands together. Although I understood the intention behind grace, it took me years to understand the words.

For many families in the United States, this week marks a time of gratitude and thanksgiving. Although it's a time often associated with football and the Macy's Day Parade, it's also a time we gather together, break bread, and give thanks.

Sometimes we say a prayer as a family. Sometimes one person is invited to say grace. Sometimes we go around the circle, asking each person big and small to name something they're thankful for.

But the key here is that all this thanks-giving is done through words. So perhaps it's time to challenge the norm, to incorporate different ways to offer up thanks.

What if, this year, we took a creative approach? What if we incorporated a nonverbal thanks-giving that gives us a different appreciation and view of all we have to be thankful for?

In that spirit, here are 6 creative ways to share gratitude that you can incorporate this Thanksgiving:

  1. Sing your gratitude. There is a reason that churches use music as a form of praise. Music touches our emotions in different and powerful ways. Instead of "saying grace" this year, why not "sing grace." You can sing as a family or you ask one person (e.g. the "singer in the family") to sing for you. Still nervous? The music doesn't have to be live--you can even find a song on the Internet or in your CD collection to play (a quick Google search yielded song ideas here and here).
  2. Draw your gratitude. Pull out a pile of paper and a box of crayons or markers. Invite each person to draw a picture of something they are grateful for (and, thankfully for me, stick figures count!). At some point during dinner, pull out the pictures and ask each person to describe what the picture is about and how it reflects what they're thankful for this year.
  3. Write your gratitude. Putting words on paper can be powerful, so instead of speaking what you are thankful for, write it down on paper instead. This can be as a poem, a paragraph, a list, an uninterrupted thought stream. Doesn't matter how it's written down...just that it is and that it's shared.
  4. Cook your gratitude. Is food preparation a family affair? Is each person involved in cooking a dish or helping prepare part of a dish? Before carving the turkey and digging in, have each person share the food or drink s/he prepared, then talk about who that dish was made for and why. In other words, that dish was made with love--who was it "made with love" for?
  5. Craft your gratitude. Some people and families are avid crafters, so why not use your interests and expertise to create a gratitude craft? The sky's the limit here--any type of craft project can work. Paper crafts, origami, jewelry, scrapbooking, recycled crafts, sewing crafts. Have a table set up with all the necessary materials for children and adults to create their gratitude craft to share with the group later that day.
  6. Play your gratitude. You can turn many of these "creatively grateful" ideas into family games. For example, if you write you gratitude (#3), have everyone put their paper in a box. One by one, each person in the family picks a paper from the box and reads what is written. Prefer the more traditional approach of speaking your gratitude? You can even make that a game by having everyone say both what they are grateful for and what the person/people who came before are grateful for (e.g. person 1 share what s/he is thankful for, person 2 shares what person 1 is thankful for along with what s/he is thankful for, person 3 share what persons 1 and 2 are thankful for, along with what s/he is thankful for, etc.).

All six of these suggestions will challenge you to explore and share what you're grateful for in a different way that through words. With many of these suggestions, it's recommended you not only share the idea, piece, or item, but also that you spend time explaining why and how it shows your gratitude. Why did you pick that song? What did you draw a picture of? Who is that food prepared for? That level of intention only adds to intention of gratitude.

If you use of any of these ideas this Thanksgiving--or if you have additional ones to share--I invite you to leave a comment in the fields below. Let us know what you've done!

Follow me on Twitter @KimberlySMoore for daily updates on the latest research and articles related to music, music therapy, and music and the brain. I invite you also to check out my website, www.MusicTherapyMaven.com, for additional information, resources, and strategies.

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