Updated on 11.22.07

A Thanksgiving Tradition

Trent Hamm

One of my closest friends has a family tradition that I quite like, and I’ve been slowly trying to implement in my own family. Basically, each year after Thanksgiving dinner, all of the people sit around in the living room and each person takes a few minutes and talks about the thing they are most thankful about over the last year. Everyone in the family takes the question seriously and answers it honestly, giving thanks for what really matters and adds value to their life.

This is something I’ve actually thought about a lot in the last year, and I really came up with two things, one obvious and one not so much.

The first one, obviously, is the conception and birth and healthiness of my daughter. She’s a healthy, happy two month old baby who smiles a lot and very much enjoys sitting on her dad’s lap. She will sit there, facing outwards and looking around, and bouncing gently some of the time, literally for hours. She’s as healthy as can be, too, and her weight and height are in good proportion and she has no illnesses or genetic diseases. I am so thankful for having this wonderful baby in my life, and thankful that she has the gift of good health.

The second one isn’t my financial turnaround (as some of you might have expected – that was what I was most thankful for last year). Instead, I am thankful for the discovery of the value of writing in my life. A year ago, The Simple Dollar was only a few weeks old and was far from popular yet – according to my data, on Thanksgiving Day last year I had about 60 subscribers. The process of writing was bringing me enjoyment (writing for The Simple Dollar tends to be idea-heavy and editing-light, which I really enjoy), but I hadn’t yet realized that I could be successful at it and attract many readers. This past year showed me otherwise, and I am deeply thankful for it.

After thinking about it for a while, I began to realize that it is a very powerful and wonderfully positive exercise. You spend time reflecting deeply on the positives in your life, and you often realize that even when things are bad, you do have a lot to be thankful for because there is a lot of good in your life, and it can shine a bright light even in a dark spot in your life. I hope to repeat this this each year on Thanksgiving, because doing this exercise brought forth a pretty strong joy in my life today.

What are you most thankful for over the last year? Please share it in the comments.

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  1. Hi Trent,

    I have been visiting your site, and enjoying your posts. My family has a similar tradition, however we do it a little bit different. Each person at the dinner table looks to their right and says why they are thankful to have that person in their life, or how they feel about that person. It usually brings about a lot of tears, and a lot of laughter. I think we all look forward to that….oh and the turkey.

  2. Diane says:

    After putting our turkey in the oven, I thought I’d pop in and see if there was a post. As sappy as it sounds, I am thankful for the”Simple Dollar” this year. I’ve only been reading since July, but already I have seen positive changes in my financial life as a result. The blogging world has enriched by life immensely. Thanks Trent, and a happy Thanksgiving to all.

  3. It’s great that your friends family all take the time to be together at Christmas. This is a concept that many families choose to ignore as they are too busy with their own lives to take one day out of the year to all spend time together. I’m glad that 2007 was a good year for you and your family, hopefully 2008 will continue the same for you. Will put your friends idea to my family and see what they have to say. Thanks.

  4. We have a twist on that tradition. We have a Thanskgiving Journal, and everyone writes what they’re most thankful for. We have a record of the last 7 years and hope to keep going. I think it will be great to be able to look back and remember the people we’ve spent Thanksgiving with over the years. Our parents aren’t in good health, and I know I will treasure what they have written even more when they’re gone.

    As far as what I’m thankful for….this is going to sound absurd, but I’m thankful for the hard times we’ve had this year. Suddenly being put in a financially dire situation has a way of making you realize what’s important and necessary in life. I’m thankful I have a God I can trust, for my family, for our health, and for realizing I don’t need a lot of money to be happy.

  5. Tabatha says:

    Definitely the realization of what I want to do with my life.

  6. SwingCheese says:

    I’m definitely most thankful for my evolving relationship with my husband. We’ve been together for almost seven years now (married for just over two), and it seems as though our relationship continuously improves over time. Although our financial situation is severely strapped right now, the plus side is that we end up doing activities that lend themselves to conversation (biking, hiking, etc.) and depending on each other for moral support and levity. Because we don’t have the option of focusing on entertainment outside of our marriage, we have spent a lot of time talking and dreaming together. (Plus, when your finances are so short that you find yourself negotiating the price of a pack of gum, you end up with A LOT of communication! :)

    The overall point is that, over the last year, our relationship has gained even more depth as we grow in our dependence on each other for love, trust, and support. I feel incredibly lucky and honored to have my husband in my life!

  7. Happy Thanksgiving! :)

  8. Smart. Healthy. Rich. says:

    My first son was born about a week after your daughter. He too is a healthy and happy baby, and for that I am extremely thankful.

  9. I’m thankful for the better health I’ve had this year. I’m most thankful for my family and friends.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  10. QuiteLight says:

    This is not what I thought I’d write, but I’m most thankful that my partner of 11 years & I had the guts to go into therapy a few years ago. This year I’ve seen the results of all the tears & hard work that we’ve put in; it’s literally a harvest of good things. We communicate so much better, & have let go of so much mental baggage that we have had the energy to sort out our financial mess & stick to a budget. We’re more joyful, & since we cancelled our cable, it’s like being on a date every night, giggling & cooking & having fun.

    I’m thankful for bursts of courage!

  11. Diane says:

    I’m happy for you Quitelight!

  12. Tia says:

    I am thankful for my wonderfully patient husband and for getting rid of our RE investement in January before the market sank. Also the health and independence of our 2 boys, 20 and 18…to watch them become men is a great joy!

    God Bless

  13. Lisa says:

    Over this past year, a lot of things have happened. I’m most grateful for: The birth of my second beautiful son, a new job, and finally getting my associate’s degree!

  14. paidtwice says:

    My daughter was just a few weeks old last thanksgiving and fighting a bit to be a healthy individual. I am most thankful that she recovered completely from her birth-related issues and is a happy, healthy, thriving one year old today.

    I am also thankful for the house we live in that we bought last march and for the continued growth of my relationship with my husband.

    And I am also thankful for my blog too. Not to Simple Dollar levels at all or anything but it also has helped me rediscover a love of writing I have always had but forgot about for a while.

  15. Shan Lao says:

    Trent, I have really enjoyed reading TSD since Oct. Thank you for sharing all your good ideas with us. I thank God that my son just returned safely from a 12-month deployment in Iraq.

  16. Chuck Bray says:

    Hi Trent, I just finished reading “A Thanksgiving Tradition” and wanted to tell a small part of why I am thankful.
    Things I am thankful for in no special order are:
    • My continued good health (I am almost 67 years old)
    • My final retirement, finally. This is my third
    • Building our dream home, 7000 sq. ft. for two with a research lab and paint studio attached. We use all of it and wish we had more.
    • Being an engineer because I am able to see tasks, choirs and projects in a different light.
    • Realizing my talents, in things that are not in my discipline.
    • Realizing that being creative is not something to be changed, only refocused.
    • Being able to mentor or inspire people and especially children (I believe they are our future)
    • Being married to my soul mate even if she still has another 10 years in the workforce. She has been able to help a lot of people through her oncological drug research and has inspired countless others in this area.
    • Creating and/or finding recipes and then preparing gourmet meals for my wife, staff, friends and relatives. Our house keeper said last Wednesday “I am so happy Mr. Chuck retired especially his interest in the kitchen”. She never misses one of my meals and frequently asks for recipes to share with her family.
    • Being able to count on my support network which includes “The Simple Dollar”. There is a lot of wisdom here mixed with some tongue in cheek snickers from everyone in my network.

    All-in-all I have a lot to be thankful for over the past year.

  17. Sallie Decker says:

    Trent, I look forward to your column daily and finally couldn’t resist replying. My family has a tradition that they practice daily. They call it High/Low. At dinner time each person from baby on gets to say their high/low for the day. It can’t be people bashing or nitpicking, it has to be something that really made them feel good and something that made them feel sad or unhappy. This sometimes leads to some very interesting conversations.

  18. Emma Reese says:

    I have enjoyed reading your newsletters.
    I am Thankful for so many things, especially family. My parents are in their late 70’s and the joke this Thanksgiving is that we are thankful to be seeing them and not viewing them!

  19. Heather says:

    I am thankful that both my brother and sister are getting re-married to people who are going to love and care for them. When you have a good husband or wife, you can relax and be what God meant you to be.Happy.

  20. Guri says:

    Thank you, Trent, for The Simple Dollar. I’m really looking forward to the cooking blog you’re going to start.

  21. Kristi says:

    I’m thankful for finally graduating college and actually making money and starting to pay off debt rather than adding to it. I’m thankful that this new chapter of my life as a recent graduate is going smoothly, and I’m extremely thankful for family!

  22. Catherine Neff says:

    I’m thankful for the Thanksgiving meal prepared by my adult daughter and all the family members who were there to share it. Also I’m grateful for the internet and the (comparatively) cheap phone rates that allow us to maintain close ties to my son and daughter-in-law who live in another country. Thanks, Trent, for TSD. I have been finding it a great inspiration for goal setting and financial responsibility. Cathy

  23. Susan says:

    My congratulations to Lisa and Kristi on their academic accomplishments! Well done!

  24. Joan says:

    — Thankful for stumbling onto the Simple Dollar — your generous sharing of yourself and your experiences in a genuine, from the heart communication to all inclusive readers on a website has been informative, refreshing and fun. Keep experimenting with different formats and keep your special style.

  25. LollieMouse says:

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and all your readers!
    I am most thankful for Christ because without Him in my life, there wouldn’t be anything else to be truly thankful for. I’m thankful for my three beautiful children, my job, my friends, and my church family — and even my precarious financial situation – it is helping us re-align our spending habits and teaching us to be good stewards of our money. Lastly, I am thankful for the Simple Dollar ! Keep up the awesome work!

  26. TEJL says:

    I am thankful for my husband’s patience when it comes to my financial shortcomings. I am thankful he has worked hard to teach me the value of money, and the future value of what I insist on spending today! I am thankful for all of the financial blogs I read now, like The Simple Dollar, which continue to inspire me and let me know we aren’t the only people struggling to make good financial decisions. I am also thankful for graduating from law school and passing the bar exam, which allowed me to become an attorney and begin contributing to our household income.

  27. Tina says:

    I am most thankful that my 2nd son is still alive! He was held up at gunpoint on his way home from work the night before Thanksgiving.

    Of all the things I have to be thankful for in my life, this year that is what ranks #1.

  28. Jake says:

    Thank you for writing your blog- I make it my morning routine to read it before I begin my day.

    I would like to say that what I’m most thankful for is for being fired from my last job. Your writings made me feel a little more comfortable than I may have otherwise through seeing that there are many worse situations that I could have been in. Thankfully, I had a surplus of money in which to live on and ended up finding a position that I am very, very happy with.

    It truly was a blessing to lose my job and I thank my Lord and my old boss for it very often!

  29. Jen says:

    That I have had a healthy pregnancy so far and that I found Dave Ramsey earlier this year — we have gotten our “poop in a group” enough so that my last day of work will be next Friday and I will be able to stay home with the baby without major hardships.

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