This Tradition Helps My Family Start the Holidays with Generosity

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It is so easy to get caught up in the way our culture celebrates the holidays — all about buying things, receiving gifts, and having things the way I want them to be.

That’s not the kind of experience I want my family to have at Thanksgiving and Christmas. So I’m always grateful for anything that helps me set the stage for a different kind of celebration. I’d like to share one example of a Thanksgiving tradition that helps my family focus on the most important things during the holiday season.

Every year for the past several years we have started our family Thanksgiving meal together in a very intentional way. Before we eat, we go around the table, and each person shares something they are thankful for. One thing I like to mention during this time is that my descendants came over to this land on the Mayflower. I am grateful for the heritage of religious freedom in this country that started with those early arrivals.

There is nothing quite as heartwarming as hearing your loved ones share what they are thankful for. It is so good for us to remember and encourage one another with God’s blessings. I especially treasure this opportunity to hear my children and grandchildren share their hearts.

After everyone has a turn, we talk about how many people all over the world do not have all the things that we are blessed with. But we don’t just leave it at that. I believe it is important for there to be an opportunity to act whenever God moves our hearts. So a few years ago we started passing around the Christmas Gift Catalog from Advancing Native Missions. The Catalog contains about 20 gifts that we can give to someone in need in another part of the world. Every gift helps people, and every gift opens the door for the Gospel message to be shared with someone who needs to hear it. It’s a perfect response to what God has done for each of us.

As we pass the Catalog around the table, each person, young and old, looks through it and picks the gifts they want to give. It’s wonderful to watch even the youngest of us find something that captures their attention and inspires them to bless someone else.

Last year, our six-year-old grandson chose frogs, which would be given to a pastor in rural Southeast Asia to help his family have food to eat and earn extra income. Our 13-year-old granddaughter wanted to give soccer balls to kids in another country because she loves to play soccer herself. She also selected shoes for children without shoes and school supplies for kids who attend class without basics like pencils and paper.

Our son-in-law wanted to give a goat to help a family with a source of food and income, and our sons wanted to give a motorcycle to a missionary who preaches the Gospel out in the most remote mission fields. They saw how they could help someone accomplish so much more for the kingdom. Our daughter chose Bibles for Christians who had never owned their own copy. The Bible has blessed her over the years — it seemed like the perfect gift to give someone else.

Everyone chose what was on their heart to give, and it was a time of blessing for us even as we participated in giving to others.

This Thanksgiving tradition sets the stage for generosity before we start the Christmas season. It is a great reminder for all of us not to only think of ourselves but to remember others. We are also reminded of what God gave us when He gave us His only begotten Son.

Now, as Thanksgiving approaches, our grandkids are already asking if we’ve received our Gift Catalog yet. What a wonderful way to teach the next generation about giving and missions.

You can see the ANM Gift Catalog online at

Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas!

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