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Filling Up Our Gratitude Jar

Editor’s note: Thanksgiving is quickly approaching. J&J mom Melissa shares how the use of a simple gratitude jar at Thanksgiving helps her reflect on her blessings – past and present.
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My husband and I host Thanksgiving for our extended family each year – including relatives, of course, plus neighbors and friends who may not have family nearby. For us, it’s more fun to have a bigger group.

A few years ago, we started asking everyone to write on a slip of paper what they’re thankful for. All of the submissions are anonymous (though sometimes the author is obvious). At the end of dinner, we gather them all in a jar and read them out loud for everyone to hear. With kids and grown-ups in the mix, we get a range of answers from serious to silly, but it is always fun to hear the different perspectives and to see how things change from year to year.

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When our daughters were first old enough to participate, our thankful list included things like chocolate milk and a favorite stuffed animal. One year our neighbor’s mom, visiting from the Czech Republic, was thankful for the blessing of her new twin granddaughters. In 2011, after we had lived through Hurricane Irene and an unexpected Halloween snowstorm, we were thankful that the damage to our home was minor and fixable. And there are always notes about being thankful for health, family and friends, as well as our family’s favorite mashed potato recipe. I started keeping a Thanksgiving scrapbook where I record our “thankful” list every year, and I love to look back to see what was happening in our lives and how the list changes over time.

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This year my daughters are 7 and 5 years old, and they can both read. I’ll ask them to help with reading the different things we are thankful for. I like that it’s an easy way for them to think about the world around them and what is important to other people, and to see for themselves that we can value both big and small things. I’m looking forward to hearing what they are thankful for this year. As for me, my list will include having time to enjoy my family – oh, and pumpkin cream pie.

Melissa Davies is Manager, Social Media Insights in J&J’s Consumer Digital Center of Excellence. She lives in Cranford, NJ, with her husband Tim and daughters Grace and Jillian.

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