Thanksgiving. I think of hours spent over a turkey (which, in reality, we never finish). I think of my Grandma drinking (maybe one too many glasses of) champagne like a pro. I think of mashing potatoes in the kitchen with my Dad. Mainly, I think of family and warmth. 

People say that loss makes you think more about your true treasures and joy. Last year many of us didn’t get to spend Thanksgiving with family. I was privileged enough to spend Thanksgiving with people I love, even if it wasn’t my closest relatives. While I had a nice little dinner, within the confines of a warm home, others were not granted this privilege. 

This year, I’m thrilled to get the chance to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family, under a roof, and eating warm food. But I also want to remember that this is not only a chance, but a magnanimous privilege. It sounds cheesy, but remembering and embracing the “simple” things  can allow you to realize they’re not so simple. 

For instance, I’m grateful for having a healthy family. I’m grateful for not having to worry about where my next meal will come from. And I’m grateful that I have the financial security to be able to take a given day to prioritize my mental health. 

In many areas of the world, covid numbers continue rising. This means that lots of families won’t be able to celebrate together. But it’s not just covid—on any given year, there are people who don’t get to have the privileges that are associated with “celebration” . Active duty members of the military, hospital patients, and people who experience homelessness are just a few examples. So while Thanksgiving gives us the opportunity to be together and celebrate, we can also take the time to give thanks and give back. 

At My Private Professor, we’re grateful to work towards helping as many students as possible. There are several factors that contribute to opportunity and achievement gaps—home environment, financial resources, and SES—and we’re determined to help reduce them. We value the opportunity to give back to students who need help, support, and resources, and in turn, contribute to making education more accessible. 

While you may have plans for Thanksgiving, there are ways we can all give back—even if they’re small. 

Visit a local food bank

It may be difficult to admit to yourself, but you may not always finish all the delicious food on Thanksgiving. It can be a LOT. 

Enjoying yummy, warm food may be a traditional part of your Thanksgiving. It’s certainly part of mine! But not everyone has an abundance of food. Find a local food bank and donate whatever you can. This can be a very doable task for anyone who can take a little time out of their day. Or, if you’re up to it, you can volunteer at the food bank. Jobs may include packing, sorting, and handing out food. 

Head to a shelter (human or animal!)

Not everyone gets to see their loved ones on Thanksgiving, so another way you can give back is by visiting people who may be spending the holiday alone. You can visit a local homeless shelter and spread your warmth. Maybe you even bring any leftover food you’ve got. 

Animals need TLC, too—and visitors will definitely brighten up their day. Who knows, you may even end up coming home with a furry friend!

Run in a (virtual) turkey trot

Participating in a Turkey Trot is a fantastic way to raise money for charities while preemptively undoing some of that Thanksgiving-meal damage. In most of these races, you can choose the length of your race. 

If you can’t physically run in the Trot, there are currently several covid-friendly options for virtual Turkey Trots where you can give back while keeping your distance.  

Send a letter to a soldier

If you know someone in the military, you can show your support and appreciation by sending a letter or package to where they’re stationed. Even if you don’t personally know someone in the military, there are plenty of websites that direct you to addresses where you can send a letter to soldiers.

Visit older generations

Right now it may not be safe for older adults to travel or even leave their homes. Spending the holiday alone can be difficult—your visit will certainly brighten up their Thanksgiving. You can bring them cards, dishes, and messages from any of your family members. Just make sure that you’re visiting them in a safe way, following any covid protocol. 

Thanksgiving presents a time to reflect, and the past year has been hectic to say the least. Luckily, many of us can say our conditions have improved to some extent (in regards to the pandemic)—nonetheless, people continue to struggle on a daily basis. 

Appreciating your joy doesn’t mean that you can’t take a little time to appreciate someone else’s hardship! Thanksgiving is a great time to remember that in most cases, there are people in the world who are less fortunate than you. And giving back allows us to recognize the luxury of being privileged enough to be able to help others. 

Try and do one thing this Thanksgiving to honor your privilege by giving back. 

Author: Lydia Schapiro