As soon as the calendar turns to November, we hear the fast-moving train of commercialism begin to trumpet advertisements for upcoming blockbuster sales, enticing us to purchase “things” for Christmas. Commercialism stealthily creeps in to gear us up for the frenzy of materialism and gift buying. The quiet, humble, grateful spirit of Thanksgiving is bypassed.

Our era is saturated with technology. Televisions and glowing screens have become the new home hearth. Our heads are often tilted downwards, our eyes not looking at each other, but at our cell phones, smart watches and computers.

Here is a gift suggestion that can create meaningful energy among loved ones in our homes all year long. Introduce a new family ritual of taking a mini vacation, or sabbath, one or two evenings a week. Unplug from electronic devices and tune into yourself and to each other.

Light a candle and relax in your living room. Have sofa chats to share feelings and address family issues and matters of the heart. Engage in conversations and acknowledge each other’s point of view on current events, global, social, environmental and political topics. Agree to civilly disagree, and leave everyone’s integrity intact despite differences of opinion. Family dialogue can give children growing up in our homes the opportunity to practice viewing a topic from varied perspectives. Bill Nemitz, a retired columnist for this newspaper once said “democracy is a conversation.” Conversations are vehicles for change.

Read to children and grandchildren. Consider “Miss Rumphius” by the late Maine author Barbara Cooney. In this short story, young Alice’s grandfather sits her on his lap and tells her that when she grows up she must do three things to make the world more beautiful. She grows up to become Miss Rumphius and honors her grandfather’s wishes, one being to plant lupine seeds over the countryside. Follow up with a discussion on ways they can make the world more beautiful.

Another book suggestion is “50 Simple Things Kids Can Do to Save the Earth” by John Javna. Read a chapter of E. B. White’s “Charlotte’s Web” each night. Teach the meaning of some of the beautiful words in the story: humble, radiant, salutations, injustice, mercy, compunction, triumph, languishing, friendship, compassion.


Have book talks, or listen to audio books. Read a passage from a book that inspired us. Take a walk in your neighborhood, park or woods to “catch wonder.” Talk about environmental things you see, hear, feel and smell as the seasons change. Marvel at the signs of life you notice that are often taken for granted.

Purchase the book “365 Days of Wonder – Mr. Browne’s Book of Precepts” by R. J. Polacio. There is one short quote for each day of the year, compiled by an English teacher who used them in his classroom. Themes relate to “kindness, strength of character, overcoming adversity and simply doing good in the world.” There are words of wisdom from Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Confucius, Kahil Gibran, Longfellow, Thoreau and Whitman to name a few. Read the quote of the day and discuss how it relates to your life.

Share a goal or intention you’re aspiring toward. Trigger family memories by looking at photos. As November draws to a close, tell someone that you are grateful for them being in your life. In December, serve hot cocoa and cookies and have a card-writing workshop. Write a handwritten card or letter to someone any ordinary day of the year; a personal gift in a digital world where ink on paper is almost obsolete.

Embrace the world’s diversity and our fellow humans across the globe by having a multicultural evening once a week. Prepare an easy recipe from another country and share a few fun facts. Take an evening stroll to watch a sunset, or to see the lantern of stars come out in the wide-open sky.

Comments are no longer available on this story