“For everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven ….” Some recognize this phrase from the book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible and others know it from the popular 1960s song by the Byrds.November is a season of Thanksgiving. Practicing gratitude and taking stock of all the blessings we have to be grateful for is the quickest and easiest way to actually become happier. Gratitude was engrained early in our household. My parents are volunteer firefighters; my mom is an EMT. I grew up watching them sacrifice time in their lives by leaving the dinner table, basketball games, in the middle of the night or even from church to go save lives. Mom never shared names, but she often told us to be thankful because she saw inside the homes of kids we knew who didn’t have beds to sleep in or other things we took for granted. When you start counting blessing, it’s like gathering a shirt from your closet or pictures of loved ones; seeing things in one place makes me realize how abundant good things are in my life. For me that richness makes it incredibly obvious I have an obligation to be giving and share that abundance with others. My church is currently in a season focused on giving and generosity in all areas of our lives. Giving and church in the same sentence probably leads you to expect a conversation about money and our pastor makes jokes each week about how disappointed we all will be to learn he’s not going to talk about money. Generosity is so much bigger than making financial contributions; it is the attitude of giving without expecting anything in return. Hospitality, volunteering, teaching, caring and sacrificing are some of the actions that come from generosity. Years ago as an FFA member, I stayed with host families while traveling throughout the state. Stepping into the homes and lives of families was eye opening and humbling. I stayed in fancy houses and meager ones where my mother’s words about people who had less echoed in my mind. Customs and norms were different in each home but they all invited me into their lives and gave what they could to make me feel comfortable. My most vivid memories of these stays were the kitchen tables. We often talked far too late into the evening or shared an early breakfast with the families filled with stories and learning about each other. People opened their homes and lives to make me feel welcome. I am still grateful for their kindness two decades later. Most people will never have a host family experience because they are uncomfortable; instead of the hassle of inviting our neighbors over for dinner we meet at restaurants. Money is given instead of time because it is more convenient. There is nothing wrong with any of these things, but I worry that we are letting too many opportunities slip away where a greater connection and impact would come from us giving more of ourselves. As you practice gratitude this month, look for opportunities to turn your thankfulness into giving that brings you closer to others. Instead of just thanking a veteran, learn about their experiences or find a way to show them a kindness. If you participate in Giving Tuesday, spread awareness by tell others why the charity is close to your heart. When you gather the family around the Thanksgiving table, find a way to give to something you all care about together. This is a time to be grateful, and a time to give of yourself.
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“Insight” by Jackie Mundt, Pratt County farmer and rancher