03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Legacy: Expressing Gratitude At Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is our most celebrated American holiday. It's our day to connect with each other and to strengthen our gratitude muscles as we gather to celebrate bounty and eat together. It's a time when the legacy of family ritual is repeated and remembered. We feel belonging and our hearts open.

Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.
- William Arthur Ward

Some suggestions/action steps:

Prepare ribbons or colorful paper strips: two (2) for everyone. Have pens or markers available.
Before sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner, invite everyone* to write three (3) things they're grateful for on this day, Thanksgiving, 2009. The strips can be signed or not as each individual chooses.

* "Everyone" includes all but infants and toddlers. By the age of four, gratitude can be nurtured. Children under the age of writing can be coached by an older child or an adult.

Repeat this process asking each person to write a Thanksgiving blessing for the family, tribe, country, or the world.

Collect the gratitudes &/or blessings in separate crystal bowls, hand-thrown pots, or plain paper bags.

Pass the bowl/pot/bag around the Thanksgiving table before the meal, asking each person to pick a gratitude (so they are not reading their own) to read aloud for all to hear. Repeat for the blessings.

Collect the gratitudes and/or blessings and preserve them in a book. Include a list of everyone present (and their ages), the location and date of the celebration, the menu, even a special recipe, as well as photos of the people and the table. Copies of the Thanksgiving book make great holiday gifts for all the family.

May your legacy activities evoke gratitude in you and all your loved ones at this time of Thanksgiving. - Rachael Freed

You can find out more about communicating and preserving your legacy (ethical will) at Email:
The author of Women's Lives, Women's Legacies, Passing Your Beliefs and Blessings to Future Generations, Rachael is a Senior Fellow at the University of Minnesota's Center for Spirituality and Healing, clinical social worker, adult educator, and legacy consultant. She is based in Minneapolis, Minnesota.