What it means to give, thanks!

Observing values and what it means to give (thanks) this holiday season.

The second most popular thing to do online the week preceding Election Day was to start off November by pledging to give thanks for something(s) every day for the next month. To be honest, I really didn’t read what many of my friends and family posted, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and believe there were some truly thoughtful, innocent, beautiful things included in their lists: love and companionship, family and friends, peace of mind, the love of god, simple pleasures not taken for granted, community, prayers answered, overcomings, successes, etc…

Yesterday during my advisory period, a school-wide program to build students’ character and perform individual academic and behavior monitoring, we discussed working with our heads, hearts, and hands. I was impressed at how well my group of twenty 7th-graders was able to identify people who have strong character traits and values and those who have achieved material “success” without the 3 H’s. The Kardashians owned the bottom of the totem, followed by recent teen sensation boy band One Direction. I was so proud that my hormone-crazed students, both boy and girl, were able to transcend their own obsessions and desires and identify true character.

We all wrote down three of our strongest values on three separate sticky notes and created a bar graph of our commonalities. The bar for Family was so big that we had to overlap stickies in order to have enough room. A total of zero students posted stickies labeled Friends, but about half of them included Friends alongside Family – beautiful. There were three more spikes, but none that compared in elevation to the first. They were soccer, education, and God (in that order). Out of 63 stickies, none of them said anything about money and only one of them was a material posession.

The day after Election Day, the nation seems to take a deep breath and feel good that it’s all over, despite which canditates or measures won or lost, passed or didn’t pass. The day after Thanksgiving, on aptly named Black Friday, most of us will once again indulge our dark sides and completely forget about all of those things that are truly important to us as we go on a violent shopping spree for all of those material/superficial things we’ve refrained from giving thanks for all month (because we’ll look shallow and materialistic if we give thanks for them).

Giving is a wonderful thing, but not when it is commercialized and capitalized. I give to you because by doing so, I am also giving to myself. The saying is true that a gift is something that is given from the heart. Giving is a value. It is a lifestyle, not something one does in isolation a single day out of each year (or more, depending on how many childrens' birthdays you have to celebrate). Am I going to give you the Kardashians and One Direction for Christmas, or am I going to share love with my friends and family, share the gift of music, edify and be edified by my colleagues, strengthen my team, be in touch with God, or have compassion for the world by the way I live each and every day? How is a new electric shaver, a snuggie, or a $10 gift certificate to Bath and Body Works, given or received, going to help me to accomplish any of this? Show me what is truly important and I’ll show you where I am going to invest myself.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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