Embracing A Spirit Of Thankfulness In The World Of Food Allergies... And Beyond
I adore Santa, but if he and Rudolph would just back off of the store shelves for a few more weeks, I honestly think the Earth would rotate a little more steadily on its axis. Yep, I'm one of those people: I LOVE Thanksgiving. I just want to sit right here in November and soak it in. Giving, gratitude, family... everything about this sweet holiday reminds me of the good in the world and in us. While I love the traditions of Thanksgiving, the part that means the most to me is how this particular time of year makes me stop and reflect. And, I'm so appreciative for the opportunity that it gives me as a food allergy mom.
You see, it's incredibly easy for us to focus on the negative of what's thrown our way. Especially as food allergy families. The high-alert mode that we live in each day has the power to breed feelings of fear and alienation that can wear down even the most optimistic among us. But, the truth is that the most powerful antidote for fear, anger, and bitterness is always gratitude. Always. And, during this month of November, as we approach a holiday that actually has the word "thanks" in its name... even before my anxiety level rises at the thought of creating dairy, egg and nut-free menus, while safely navigating family gatherings... I'm CHOOSING to be thankful. I'm conscientiously focusing on why I am grateful for the blessings in my life. I'm making a list of reasons why I'm appreciative of those around me. I'm doing my best to go there first, and I'm trying with all my might to take my kids along for the ride.
While I'm still figuring this out, I wholeheartedly believe that the key to balancing the things that get us down with all that we have to be thankful for, is making a choice to focus on the good around us. And, it doesn't stop there: there is power to putting feet to those feelings of thankfulness and gratitude. How do we do that? We take the focus off of ourselves (which includes any of the yuck that is bringing us down), and we serve others. We push back all of the negative that surrounds us, and we choose to focus on bringing some light into someone else's life. When we do that, everything changes.
And our kids... Can you imagine how empowered our food allergy kids would feel if we encouraged them to take this month of November to try and focus on what they have instead of what they don't? What if we took it a step further and challenged them to take all of the ick that their food allergies inevitably bring and channel it into serving and showing love to others? That realization not only has the power to change their lives but those around them. Think about that.
So, how can we put thankfulness into action? How do we make this real for our kids?
Donate to a *food, shoe or coat drive this holiday season. (*If you want to impact the food allergy community, specifically, look for ways to serve those who are in need of safe, allergy-friendly foods.)
Volunteer to serve at a soup kitchen.
Invite an elderly neighbor for holiday dinner or visit them in their home or nursing facility.
Make cards or send care packages to our men and women overseas.
Make cards for or visit kids at your local children's hospital.
Create a gratitude journal. Take turns as a family writing down things that you are thankful for each day.
Most importantly, TALK to your children about gratitude and how easy it is to see the good around them if they are looking for it. Have you ever noticed that when a friend of yours gets a new car - a color, make and model you've never really paid much attention to before - you suddenly see that type of car everywhere? Why? Because you are LOOKING for it! The exact same thing goes for thanksgiving and gratitude. When you look for the ways in which you are blessed and you talk about them with your children, the more the spirit of this holiday will come alive in your home.
Thanksgiving, you are amazing! Thank you for setting my heart straight ever year, without fail. Here's to a month FULL of thanks for all of us.
Stay tuned over the next few weeks for my favorite allergy-safe Thanksgiving recipes, tips for navigating family gatherings and more thoughts on the power of gratitude.