For most people, Thanksgiving conjures thoughts of gratitude, turkey, football, family, and pumpkin pie, with every family sharing its unique traditions. One set of my cousins serve glazed ham instead of turkey at Thanksgiving dinner. Some people prefer cocktails over wine, or alternate between mulled wine and scotch. I have friends who whip up Thanksgiving-inspired desi dishes or entirely vegan meals, relatives who make tandoori turkey, and friends who host a yearly potluck where each person brings a dish that represents their familial story. That dinner table looks like the United Nations of food.
Having said that, no matter what social media may tell us, no one has the perfect life. We are all dysfunctional and bring our own baggage to holiday gatherings. Despite our individual flaws, it’s still amazing to have family and friends to hug. To share meals with, play board games with, watch football with, raise toasts with, and laugh unabashedly with. What a privilege it is to have these bonds and intimate gatherings and to create new memories with the people we love.
However, the holidays can be triggering for those who have lost a loved one or have an acrimonious relationship with their family. It can be traumatic if you are out of work and don’t feel enthusiastic about spending time with others. Some people might feel like they aren’t doing enough to keep up with everyone around them, while others may feel conflicted about celebrating and experiencing joy while there are people suffering. Grief, loss, and rejection are nuanced, and there might be several reasons why Thanksgiving feels heavy to some people, whether they spend it alone or surrounded by others.
It doesn’t take much to be a decent human being, especially around the holidays. If we can learn to listen more instead of always talking, we can immediately realize who could use a little extra dose of love. Here are some tips for bringing peace to those around you this time of the year.
Send a Care Package
Everyone loves being acknowledged and feeling visible. Pick one person in your circle—a family member, friend, or coworker—and send them a care package. It doesn’t have to be anything expensive. It acts as a reminder that you are thinking of them. I like to surprise my friends by sending them a box of snacks; these treats might be available around the corner from their house, but it’s the power of a surprise blessing that makes it special. Another time I sent a box of aromatherapy candles to a friend going through a rough time to remind them that the darkness they were experiencing was temporary.
Leave a Handwritten Sticky Note
In the world of gadgets and social media, people many have forgotten the art of small gestures of affection. Finding an unexpected sticky note left on your desk or your front door can bring a smile at the end of a long day. In 2010, when I was doing some book-reading events in Singapore, my young niece left me several sticky notes around her house:“You rock, Auntie!” All these years later, I still remember that feeling of support.
Pay a Compliment
There is something nice to say about every single person. We often get so focused on the lack of in every situation or person that we forget to emphasize the good in life. Once, after my cousin shared an old family picture in our group chat, I called up one of my aunts to tell her that she looked beautiful in the red shirt she was wearing in the photo. She was embarrassed for a minute; she was 72 and from a generation that gets uncomfortable with compliments. But after a moment, she said that I made her day. Her husband loved her in red, but after he passed away, she stopped wearing the color. My genuine compliment made her consider otherwise.
Invite a Guest
If you are hosting Thanksgiving dinner, invite someone who may otherwise be alone for the holidays. In December 2021, when the Omicron variant hit, my family and I had to cancel all our plans of socializing and celebrating in New York City, which left all of us deeply disappointed. Instead, my cousin in Georgia invited us to drive down and spend the holidays at her place with her family. It was the most thoughtful gesture, and ended up being a memorable trip.
Send Someone a Kind Message
In the world of emojis and text messages, we are losing the beauty of words. Take time to craft a thoughtful message to a colleague, friend, or family member going through a hard time. Pick specific traits that you like in them and the ways in which they inspire you. It could be an email or a text message, but no matter the delivery method, it’s always nice to receive customized messages.
No one knows what tomorrow has in store for any of us. Be kind whenever you can, even on difficult or dark days. Be the reason someone smiles and forgets their sorrows, even if just for a meal. Have a hearty, healthy, and happy Thanksgiving.
“Somewhere along the way, we must learn that there is nothing greater than to do something for others.” —Martin Luther King Jr.
Keep reading: “Embrace Compassion This Thanksgiving”