The Thanksgiving Day Challenge

thanks2Alongside the annual mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and stuffed turkey, I’d like to spice up the menu with a challenge.  It’s a beautiful concept we have in our country to dedicate a day to giving thanks.  However, that concept is sometimes too ambiguous and vast, so we often miss out on the opportunity.  It’s time we take it to the next level.  Therefore, I challenge you to take the Thanksgiving Day Challenge.  On Thanksgiving day, I challenge you to do 5 out of 10 of these simple quick ways to give thanks.  It could easily take you only a few minutes, and I guarantee you won’t regret it.  After you have completed the challenge, share your experience with me or the world.  I hope it goes well!

Here are the 10 opportunities to give thanks:

  1. Smile:  Smile warmly at 5 people that you’ve never met.  When some (or all) of them inevitably don’t smile back, remind yourself that life is hard and feel compassion towards them that their life is so hectic, stressful, or challenging that they cannot even return a smile to a warm smiling face.  Be thankful and conscious that you can.
  2. Old Friends:  Think back to your close friends back in elementary school.  Look one up that you haven’t been in touch with for a few years and share a quick memory with them about the good times you had together.  If you can do it, thank them for being your friend.  They’ll be happy to hear from you.
  3. Cell Phone vs Self-On:  Most of us use our cell phones as our alarm to wake up.  Inevitably, that means the first thing in your hand to start the day is your phone, and that means you’re checking your emails before you’ve fully opened your eyes.  Go buy an alarm clock and leave your cell phone in the kitchen.  Start your day with your self-on instead of your cell phone.  With your new application of ancient wisdom called a digital alarm clock, commit to start your day with a 10 second statement that I’m thankful to be waking up and alive to experience another day.
  4. Inspiration:  Think about a person in your life who impassioned you.  Whether it was a friend who introduced you to a youth group, a camp director, your rabbi growing up, or even an author of a book you read that got you thinking. Send them a note thanking them, and tell them how they’ve made a difference in your life.  Enjoy knowing that you made their day.
  5. Parents:  Take 60 seconds to think about the challenge of raising a child from infancy through high school.  Ponder the diapers, late nights reading bedtime stories, the limited vacation options, as kids get older weeknight and weekday obligations to schools, sports practices and competitions, music lessons, gymnastics, karate, adolescence and all that came with (don’t remind me…), they paid for food, clothing, going out to the movies, medical bills, school supplies, college, prison bail (you didn’t have that experience?)…  We tend to notice the areas where they didn’t provide for us.  Today, call your parents to tell them you realize they have done a lot for you, and thank them for it.
  6. Water:  When you drink a cup of water, before you put the water to your lips take 10 seconds to think about how fantastic water is. We are made up of 60% water.  Can you imagine what life would be like if water tasted bad?  Or wasn’t easily accessible?  Or was painful to swallow?  But it has a pleasant taste, is available, and is pleasant to take in.  Then say a blessing to G-d for such a precious gift in such pleasant wrappings – Blessed are you, G-d, King of the Universe, Who brings everything into existence.
  7. Healing:  Think back to a time in the past that you were once in physical pain.  Ever break a bone?  Sick in bed?  In an accident?  Had surgery?  So often we revel in the pain, but we forget to revel in the relief and joy when it has passed.  Take a moment to revel in the beauty and pleasure of the body healing.  Write down your feelings and share them on your favorite social media venue.
  8. The World:  Find one thing in the world you can be thankful for today and spend 1 minute thinking about how grand it is.  Some examples you can use:  sunlight, trees, paved streets, your pet dog or cat, lungs, heart beating, or having 5 fingers on each hand.  Then take 15 seconds to feel the honor and privilege of such a grand gift in your life.
  9. Love:  Think of someone you love who may not know it.  Send them a text telling them you do.  Here’s a template if you need help, “Hi X!  It’s me, Josh (I advise you to use your name and not mine).  I love you.”  It’s that simple.  Feel free to copy the text and paste it for a few others to brighten their day too if you’d like.
  10. Yourself:  Write a love letter to yourself.  Be real, have compassion, and be loving.  Step out of yourself for a minute and write a letter describing your favorite things about you.  Are you athletic?  Funny?  Insightful?  Caring?  Friendly?  Kind?  Be thankful for who you are.  It doesn’t have to be a long letter, just real.  Then put it in an envelope with a stamp, address it to yourself, and send it.

Share this challenge with your friends, and keep me posted how it goes!

Joshua Marder is a rabbi and licensed marriage and family therapist.  He runs Chicago YJP, a division of the Lois and Wilfred Lefkovich CTN, where young Jewish professionals connect with each other and their Judaism.  To see more of his blogs, check out, and to find out more about upcoming Chicago YJP events with Rabbi Josh, you can like Chicago YJP on Facebook at

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