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It's been 391 years since the harvest festival celebrated by the Pilgrims, which would become the Thanksgiving holiday we now know, took place. Community and gratitude have taken on additional meanings since that time. In preparation for this week, I'd like you to consider this question: What is Thanksgiving without giving?

Families often go around the Thanksgiving dinner table, telling what they are thankful for that day. We give thanks. But how can we give back?

What is Thanksgiving: Cangas Simeon, beneficiary in Pestel

Here's a brief testimony from one of our Heifer International participants in Haiti:

My name is Cangas Simeon, and I am 29 years old and live in Ferrier, a section of Pestel. I am a member of the Youth Organization for the Development of Pestel.

Today I want to express my happiness and gratitude toward Heifer staff. I am a poor person, and I am not ashamed to let you know that. Since I was a little boy, I never had the possibility to buy four goats. When I get some produce from my garden, I sell some of it and eat the rest with my family. Time to time I will buy one or two goats or sheep, but I have never been able to buy four.

Today I have more than that, and soon I will have more. I plan to follow the principles that Heifer taught us so I can Pass on the Gift to someone else. I plan to have more than 20 goats in order to improve my living conditions. I know I will be successful one day and I will be able to take care of my entire family. I plan to not only pay the tuition fees for my children, but we will also have the opportunity to eat more meat and get more protein.

Cangas is a man who is truly grateful. He doesn't celebrate Thanksgiving, but he certainly has the answer to what is thanksgiving. He finally has the opportunity to provide consistent nutrition for his children, and he looks forward to giving back to his community what he has received through Heifer's Pass on the Gift model.

What is Thanksgiving?

Because most of us have never had to know what it's like to be newly grateful for the gift of nutrition, it can be hard to relate. But I think what we can relate to is being so grateful for what we have that we want to give some of our abundance to others in need.

And that's my challenge to you this Thanksgiving: When you're going around the dinner table, listing what you're grateful for, ask your family to also say how they plan to give back this year. Ask them: What is Thanksgiving without giving?

Heifer International's way of giving plans for the long term. We give hungry families the power to feed themselves every day, through training in sustainable agriculture and living gifts of livestock. Our Boost of Nutrition package in the Heifer Gift Catalog has everything a family needs to be healthy and happy: seeds to grow fruits and vegetables will provide vitamins and minerals, chickens provide daily protein from eggs. The training that's part of every Heifer project ensures that these are not hand-outs. These are gifts that will last indefinitely.

Providing a Boost of Nutrition to a family in need is a great way to give back on Thanksgiving, or anytime at all.

What is Thanksgiving without giving? Give now.

This post is part of our What to Give series, where we're helping you choose the best Heifer gift for your loved ones. Read previous What to Give posts here, and subscribe to the What to Give series here.

Still don't know what to give? Check out our entire online Gift Catalog.


Brooke Edwards

Brooke Edwards is from Little Rock, Arkansas, and started working at Heifer International in 2009 as a writer. She and her husband raise two daughters in a house way too small for their four pets. They spend a lot of time sweeping.