I love Thanksgiving. I love the month of November. I might not feel that chill in the air here in New Orleans, but you can feel the change in the world around you. Whether you are a fan of change or not, it is upon us. From the election, to daylight savings, to the Christmas displays that are quickly taking over the stores; change is everywhere. It is palpable.
I love this moment in time when fall is in full swing, when there is still hope for your favorite team to make the playoffs if all the cards fall just right, when families start making plans to gather, and children begin to get that twinkle in their eye and their excitement just cannot be contained.
Three years ago I decided that before the chaos of the Christmas season aka the “I want” season took over, we all needed some good ole fashioned gratitude in our hearts. Thus, the tradition of the grateful tree was born. Each year on November 1st, the kids go out in the backyard and gather sticks for our tree. We cut leaves out of construction paper and hole punch them while munching on Halloween candy.
To truly get in the spirit of the grateful season, we kick off the first night by reading the leaves of the previous years. It is amazing how these small construction paper leaves hold so many precious memories. My five year old stepson was appalled that so few of his leaves from the prior two years could be deciphered. I had to laugh as I remembered how adamantly he demanded that he and only he be allowed to mark his leaves with his feelings and chicken scratch. There were no translations of his work allowed! Now as I watch him work so painstakingly to write his words, I know how treasured these leaves will be for years to come. They are yearly reminders of how far he has come; a reminder of how much each of us has grown. They are some of my most precious possessions.
I love to hear how two years ago my stepdaughter was grateful for her toys and candy and now she is grateful for discovering her passion for swimming and for feeling safe in her home when there are so many who do not. I love being reminded of the lost dog we took in and reunited with its owner, the prayers for a foreign land, the achievement of a good grade on a test, the funny inside jokes that only our family would understand. It is a snapshot of the history that defines us.
I look forward to creating those moments every night in November. A simple leaf made of construction paper provides a small moment at the end of the day when you get to be reminded of how blessed you truly are. It offers a window into your kids’ hearts when you are able to see what they value most. It is a moment of reflection that can bring happiness into a dark day. Most importantly I believe it fills our hearts with love, goodness, and hope which we need now more than ever.
Today, I am grateful for all the gifts and lessons our grateful tree bestows upon us and how it never fails to make a heavy heart a little lighter.