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The Thanks Giving Tree


Marge Fenelon - published on 11/26/14

A Thanksgiving Day Prayer

For many years, we had the tradition of putting up a Thanksgiving tree on our dining room wall. I’d cut a construction paper trunk and branches and stick it to the wall, starting about a week before the holiday. Then, I’d cut out batch after back of construction paper “leaves” in browns, yellows, reds and oranges and place them in a large glass jar on the counter next to the tree. I’d place a pen and roll of scotch tape beside it and urge the rest of the family to write something they were thankful for on each leaf. Then we’d hang the leaves on the tree, writing side facing the wall. The idea was to fill the tree with things for which we’d like to give thanks on Thanksgiving. It could be anything, large or small, major or lesser – whatever crossed our minds. When we were gathered around the Thanksgiving dinner table, we’d read them aloud one by one.

The first five leaves I put up each year contained the names of my husband and five children. From there, I included the extended family, and the year’s breakthroughs, like a new book published or contract signed. I never failed to thank for a roof over our heads, cars that still work, electricity, and indoor plumbing. Fall leaves, morning coffee, and chocolate were must-adds. Of course, I couldn’t skip good books, warm snuggly blankets and soft, green grass on a warm summer day. And it went on and on.

And that’s precisely the problem. It did go on and on, and as my kids moved into the teen years it went on and on until it bored them to tears. Literally. They didn’t quite get into it the way I didn, and truthfully, I shouldn’t have expected them to. I suppose I was going a bit crazy with it. Too much of a good thing can still be too much of a good thing. So, I abandoned the Thanksgiving Tree tradition before my family threatened to abandon me.

But I didn’t give up on it entirely. Determined to continue my pre-Thanksgiving-mood-lifting-regiment, I’ve kept it up in my heart each year. Beginning the week before Thanksgiving, I make it a point to privately name at least a handful of things every day for which I’m thankful. Maybe it’s something big, like my trip to the Holy Land this past May or my trip to Rome in September. Maybe it’s something seemingly insignificant, like pens. Yes, pens. How many times a day – even in this computer age – do we pick up a pen write something, sign something, or mark something off? Somebody had to figure out how to make the very first pen, and I’m decidedly grateful for that. Now I can lay out my signature without having to sign my name in blood.

Even though I don’t share my thanksgiving list with anyone else, it does wonders for me personally. It forces me to realize that, for all my whining and complaining during the other 51 weeks of the year, I really do have an awful lot to be happy about. For all the times I gripe about what I don’t have, I’ve seldom taken the time to assess and appreciate all the things that I do have. I have a lot.

I bet you do, too, once you pause and take stock of your situation. Try it for yourself – even if just for an hour or a day. You might like it so much that you’ll devote a whole week to it! You could make your own Thanksgiving Tree (as long as you don’t bore your kids to tears like I did mine). Or, you might just want to keep it to yourself and make everyone around you wonder why in the world you’re smiling and humming all the time. Try it. You’ll be amazed at how your Thanks Giving Tree can grow.


Here’s a lovely prayer for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. It’s a good start for your Thanks Giving Tree.

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