Give Back to Give Thanks: 5 Ways to Make a Difference This Thanksgiving

When you’ve got a table filled with stuffed turkey, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, dinner rolls and Mom’s famous pumpkin pie, it’s pretty easy to feel thankful—but, in fact, Thanksgiving is about even more than a delicious meal. A holiday that calls us all to gratitude, Thanksgiving reminds us of the blessings that surround us, from roofs over our heads to clean water in our sinks. So this year, why not put that thankful spirit to good use and celebrate the season with giving? Here are some great ideas for giving back to give thanks!

1. Volunteer Your Time

Local soup kitchens or homeless shelters can always use extra helping hands, especially around the holidays. So find one in your area and ask about how you could help! Whether you end up cleaning up a building on a weekend or ladling out bowls of soup for a meal, when you volunteer, you remind yourself that one person can help create change.

2. Plan a Potluck

Know anyone who’s far from family? Have relatives who are lonely or acquaintances that could use more time with friends? Create a guest list of people you’d like to love on and invite them to come join you for a fun Friendsgiving at your place. Ask everyone to bring a dish and enjoy the shared community of a casual potluck supper—a wonderful way to fill your heart with thanks.

3. Help Someone

There are no rules when it comes to generosity. Giving doesn’t have to be big or formalized to matter. Take a look around at the people you know—your neighbors, your coworkers, the other parents at school, the elderly relative in a nursing home—and ask yourself what needs are there that you could meet. Ask your neighbor if you could rake her leaves this weekend, for example. Take the kids to visit your great aunt who can’t leave home on her own. Whether you bake cookies for your office or pay for a stranger’s coffee, you can make a difference.

4. Give Stuff Away

From charities that give kids toys to shelters that give people clothes, there are all kinds of organizations looking for donations to empower their efforts. Your kids’ old, good-condition toys, last season’s wardrobe, the working appliances you no longer need and even the non-working car in your driveway are all prime donation opportunities. Or, when you can afford it, go shopping for new items to fill someone else’s closets with clothes or table with delicious food.

5. Make a Financial Donation

Last but not least, you can always give money to a worthy cause as a way of giving back to your community. While this option may not leave as much of an impact on your memories, there’s no denying that it’s a huge help to the organizations that need it.

When you’re counting your blessings this Thanksgiving season, get inspired to turn that gratitude into hands and feet—and gifts—that bless other people! Use the five ideas above to get started.