I love conversations about holiday traditions.

From best ideas ever to epic fails.

From first year launches to rituals so ancient no one remembers the original story.

For generations, a fruit salad has appeared on our family Thanksgiving table. The recipe is quite humble. Chopped apples, halved red grapes, sliced bananas, pecans, and miniature marshmallows slathered with generous globs of sweet whipped cream. Decades ago, this lumpy cloud in a bowl was introduced to me, my siblings, and my cousins as Aunt Iva Salad. My cousin misunderstood the introduction (none of us had heard of Aunt Iva) and Anteater Salad officially landed on future menus as a side dish and a topping for pumpkin pie.

During the years that my sister, brothers, and I cultivated the next generation of cousins, we gathered over the four-day Thanksgiving weekend to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas. My mom gave each family a gift that could be used or displayed through the Christmas season. Holiday serving pieces, home décor items, or something she had lovingly made. I established my mom’s Thanksgiving gift tradition for my young sons by starting Christmas ornament and Santa collections that represented special events from the year. My boys are 33 and 31. They still look forward to receiving their holiday treasures in November.

A new Thanksgiving tradition entered my home a few years ago after I attended Empty Bowls -an international project to fight hunger. Artisans, including professionals and young students, donate handcrafted pottery bowls. Attendees select bowls from a vast selection, contribute a set donation fee for each bowl, and then enjoy delicious soups prepared by local chefs. Friends and family at my Thanksgiving dinner are served a first course soup in these beautiful bowls. Each person selects a bowl to take home as a reminder to be grateful for the food they have and to give to those who do not.

This concept of gratitude and generosity was preached and modeled to me by my parents. I asked my mom once how she and my dad made ends meet in their early years of marriage on so little.

“We had enough for what we needed and some to give to those who had less.”

I adopted my parents’ life motto. But sometimes my gratitude gets hijacked by comparison, selfishness, and apathy. To adjust my attitude, I go through the alphabet and name something or someone for which I am grateful. It may sound like a corrective exercise for a petulant child throwing a fit because she has to have the newest whatever. But after compiling the list of 26, people of all ages can feel a little less ungrateful, dissatisfied, envious, or critical.

Gratitude is a readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.

Gratitude sparks the area of the brain related to connecting with people.

Gratitude promotes our immune and cardiovascular health.

Gratitude is a relationship-bonding emotion.

Gratitude dwells in the heart.

So, as we gather around fancy tables, picnic tables, or coffee tables for Thanksgiving, let’s be grateful for what we have and remember to give to those who have less.