Let the madness begin. Stuffed bellies, ringing bells, gifts to buy, cards to address, long lines, short tempers: Welcome to Thanksgiving Weekend.

Even though many of us will spend this weekend with the people we love the most, it’s often as much a time of stress as it is a time of celebration. We know this weekend marks the starting line for the sprint to “get it all done” before Christmas.

It can be hard to turn off the noise and block out the to-do lists enough to remember that Thanksgiving is about giving thanks.

I give thanks for my little people and for the sticky handprints they leave on the furniture, because someday the handprints will be gone and my little people will be big people.

I give thanks for my husband and for the knowledge that the basketball season will eventually end and I’ll get to see him again, but in the meantime, he gets to do what he loves for a living.

I give thanks for our health and for the ability we have to pay for an exam when we don’t feel well.

I give thanks for my friends and the fact that I can call them at any time and tell them all the things I’m not thankful for.

I give thanks for the love that fills my home because it is always bigger than the biggest tantrum any one of us could throw.

So how do I keep those things in mind during the next four weeks when the cycle of buy-give-get begins to spin out of control?

I’m always looking for ideas. That’s why I was thankful for this letter, sent by a woman named Judith, who uses Thanksgiving as a way to make Christmas more about having a meaningful experience and less about materialism.

“Dear Nicole,

At the risk of sounding ‘prideful,’ I want to share how I have been trying in some small way to forward good deeds and kindness within my family.

Quite a few years back, I started a tradition that has multiplied and blessed our Christmas celebration.

I give each of my children’s families a check at Thanksgiving. I am blessed with four children who each have families of their own. There are 13 grandchildren, and now I am also a great-grandmother of five.

The check is for each family to spend to help a person, group or organization. The money is in place of what I would have spent on gifts for the children and grandchildren. Their gift to me is to share with everyone when we gather on Christmas day how they used their money.

The different choices, the reasons for the choices, the sharing with each other, it just could not be any better than that. I do still buy gifts for the younger grandchildren, but once a grandchild graduates from high school, they are part of the Thanksgiving ‘give back’ gift.

It has been such a joy to see how they have embraced the idea and how the younger children get excited about the process and want to be involved. I think if this tradition of ours is helping to plant the seeds in these young people, it can’t help but grow a garden of goodness that will continue for a long time.”

Thanks, Judith. What a wonderful way to turn the next four weeks into a time to focus on the needs of others instead of on what we think needs to be done.

It may be worth mentioning that Judith is a widow who is living on a fixed income. As she says, “It certainly does not require great riches to have enough to share.”

Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at nphillips15@hotmail.com. Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND, 58107.


Nicole Phillips is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo, and currently the Executive Director of Diva Connection Foundation. She is the mother of three kids and the wife of Bison men’s head basketball coach Saul Phillips. Her columns run every Saturday.