The gift of presence: A Thanksgiving message

Family at Thanksgiving

Family at Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. I love the focus on gratitude and being thankful for the blessings in our lives. I love spending time with family that isn’t centered around gifts, rather that we share the gifts of our presence with each other. And I have to admit, I also love turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes and homemade cranberry sauce. Yum!

But, back to giving others the gift of our presence; I thought I’d share a few tips to do just that. After all, your presence is truly a way to show your gratitude for friends and family.


As our digital devices have taken a larger role in our lives, one of the best ways we can share our presence is to put them away. Thanksgiving presents a wonderful opportunity to connect with family and friends – to sit down and have a meaningful conversation. Ask your grandpa about his life growing up. I bet he’s got some great stories. Ask him what he did to entertain himself without television, tablets or smart phones.  You might marvel at the ways he and his friends had fun.

Create a no cell phone zone for the dinner table. Ask that everyone put their phones away during the meal. Or, make a game of it and have those gathered put their device on the table in a stack (if you can find a place that isn’t occupied with food, that is), and say that the first person to grab for their phone during the meal has to do the dishes.

Play an analog game

Rather than play with the Wii or Xbox, pull out a good old fashioned board game. The kind where you get to pick your token (if’s Monopoly, I’ll take the shoe) and have some friendly competition with each other.  It could be a game that takes skill or just some good bluffing. My family has had hours of fun playing Balderdash, a game where you have to make up meanings for unusual words. Oh the laughter that ensues! And, many of my fondest memories as a kid are times my family played a spirited board game with much teasing and friendly competition.

Turn the TV off

When the television is on, it’s hard not to focus on the screen. Suddenly, all attention is on the tube and not on each other. For those who would rather visit then watch TV they may feel they are being rude by talking while others are watching the game. It’s a lose lose situation. If you absolutely don’t want to miss a game or the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, tape it and watch it when you get home. Or, if everyone at the gathering wants to watch one particular game, do so, but then turn the TV off and invite people to interact again.

The benefit of giving others our presence is that we get to connect with people we may not see very often. Kids learn important conversation skills and feel they matter when adults takes the time to talk to them. We all want and need to feel connected to others. Let’s make this Thanksgiving about presence.

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Arden Clise is founder and president of Clise Etiquette. Her love for business etiquette began in previous jobs when she was frequently asked for etiquette, public speaking and business attire advice by executives and board members. The passion for etiquette took hold and compelled Arden to start a consulting business to help others. Read more >>

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