Thanks and Giving – Paying Blessings Forward

posted on November 8, 2012 by  |  posted under Thanksgiving  |  55 Comments

Paying Blessings Forward
Paying Blessings Forward

Have you ever noticed that there are two active components to the word “Thanksgiving”?  One calls on us to be thankful and express our gratitude, and the other calls on us to be giving.  On one hand, the Thanksgiving season is a time for counting our blessings.  On the other, it’s a time to consider ways in which we can pay our blessings forward.  The free printable chart below allows you to begin tracking both.

Paying Blessings Forward

Place the printout into a clear plastic sleeve (the three ring binder type with the rings cut off).  This allows it to be reused and written on with a dry erase marker.  Other ways to make the printout reusable are to laminate, or frame it and write on the glass or plastic.  Consider printing one for each member of the family, and then run a contest – who has the longest list of things they are thankful for?  Who comes up with the most ideas for being giving, or ways they have shown an act of kindness in the past?  Keep a writing implement close by with this little “cornucopia” holder:

Paying Blessings Forward

Roll a piece of cardstock into a cone shape and tape it, then punch holes in opposite sides with a paper punch for tying a ribbon through so the cone can hang next to the chart.  Craft stores also sell cone shapes that are a bit sturdier (and cuter I’m sure!) but this one does the job.  Now click on the chart below to print yours!

Paying Blessings Forward

Once lists are completed, start a discussion!   Did anyone have similar ideas for ways to be more kind, giving, or helpful to others?  Are there ways in which the family can actively implement these ideas?  Life presents many opportunities for giving.  Driving around in the car with my kids last year inspired ways to help the homeless.  Questions like, “Why is that man sleeping on the ground” or “what is that person doing standing on the side of the street?” led to brainstorming ways we might be able to help.  So I went in search of an idea a little more meaningful than leaving some spare change in a canister and came across the idea for “Blessings Bags” on the internet.  It was a project we decided we wanted to do as a family.  Here’s what we included in the bags:

Paying Blessings Forward

Items:  1. Wet Wipes  2. Mint gum  3.  lemonade flavor packets  4. band-aids  5 . cough drops  6. raisins  7. bottles of water  8. plastic spoons (for the fruit cups)  9. kleenex packets 10. mini snickers bars  11. mandarin oranges or other fruit cups  12. applesauce  13. peanut butter sandwich crackers  14.  fruit snacks  15. granola bars  16. potato chips  17. combs  and, gallon ziploc bags to pack everything in.  Here they are, completed:

Paying Blessings ForwardThere were leftover items so I incorporated them into some smaller blessings bags that you see on the far left.  Pack them in a box like so:

Paying Blessings ForwardAnd have them in the car with you at all times, ready to go.  Here’s an “up close” detail  of an individual package below.  It’s like handing someone a present and feels so good to give.  In a pinch, having these bags inside the car has been a blessing to my own family.  On outings that have turned unexpectedly long, leaving my kids cranky and hungry, I’ve had an emergency stash of goodies to choose from that contain enough variety to please everyone.

Paying Blessings Forward

For a final “Pay it Forward” idea, give the movie by the same name to someone at Thanksgiving with a challenge for them to pass it on (and on, and on) to as many others as possible prior to Christmas.  The movie instructs, “When someone does you a favor, don’t pay it back, pay it forward.”  It has a PG-13 rating however, and is not intended for children.  Send it along with some snacks to enjoy with the movie and see what happens!

Paying Blessings Forward

I’d love to know what traditions you have during the holiday season that are along the lines of “Gratitude, Giving, & Paying Blessings Forward”.  Please share in the comments below so that we may all benefit from a benevolent collection of ideas!

Paying Blessings Forward



    1. November 8th, 2012 at 10:06 am
      Traci B says:
      Love the Thanks and Giving idea - thank you!
      • November 8th, 2012 at 10:50 am
        Stephanie says:
        You're welcome. I'm glad you like it!
    2. November 13th, 2012 at 5:58 pm
      Nadine Osborne says:
      What wonderful ideas. We don't have homeless in our small, rural town; but this Blessings Bags would still work for those who need extra food for their children. Could even add a small toy. Thank you for sharing.
      I know my family has much to be thankful for, we do go around the table taking turns saying out loud what we're thankful for. It's always nice to be reminded of what we enjoy every day & often take for granted.

      • November 14th, 2012 at 11:36 am
        Stephanie says:
        I love the idea of adding a small toy, Nadine! Thanks so much for posting it. It sure would be a nice way to give to families in the community.
    3. November 13th, 2012 at 10:32 pm
      Jana Rasmussen says:
      Great ideas!! I for sure want to do the blessing bags with my girls. We have also gone to retirement homes and read "Thankful" books and told stories.
      • November 14th, 2012 at 10:00 pm
        Stephanie says:
        That's awesome, Jana! I'll bet the residents of the retirement homes were delighted to have your girls there to brighten their day!
    4. November 14th, 2012 at 8:58 am
      Crystal says:
      I just started following your blog and absolutely love it!! We have so many homeless around Houston and these bags will be great to keep in the car especially since I don't carry cash and like to give food rather than money. Great idea!! Thanks!!
      • November 14th, 2012 at 11:41 am
        Stephanie says:
        Thank you, Crystal! It's exciting for me to know you'll be able to implement this idea in Houston. My husband and I have found it really gratifying to be able to hand these out while looking each recipient in the eye with warm smile and kind words to let them know you care. There is something about a face to face encounter that gives so much humanity and dignity to a person as well as the supplies. Warms my heart to think others will be paying this idea forward!
    5. November 14th, 2012 at 2:18 pm
      Missy says:
      This is fantastic! Not just be thankful, but DO something to bless other people's lives. Great ideas Stephanie - thanks!
      • November 14th, 2012 at 5:41 pm
        Stephanie says:
        Thanks so much, Missy! I'm grateful to have the chance to share these ideas. :-)
    6. November 15th, 2012 at 9:28 am
      Heather - Chickabug says:
      These are such a wonderful ideas, Stephanie! I shared the Thanks and Giving board on my blog today:

      I really applaud you for the care bags for the homeless, too. That's something that will make an immediate difference in people's lives (wet wipes, combs, and band aids? SO SMART!) and make a huge impact on your kids as well. That sort of giving is a lesson they'll never forget!
      • November 15th, 2012 at 10:19 am
        Stephanie says:
        Wow! Thanks for including the post on your blog - I would love to see the "Thanks" & "Giving" sign - redone chickabug style! Feel free if the spirit moves you :-)... The bags make a difference in so many ways. Though I'll never know the impact or usefulness they have to the recipient, the exchange and interaction we are able to have with another human being is priceless for us. My kids get to see and participate in compassion in action and that's important for me as a mom to show them tha they can "be the change" for good in the world. My husband keeps some of the bags in his car too and reported that he was surprised the first time he gave someone a bag - how rewarding it was. It's a good feeling!
    7. October 14th, 2013 at 7:58 pm
      tiffany monroe says:
      We have done this before but we added things like ChapStick, little lotion bottles and winter gloves and socks you get from the dollar store. Also the last time we included a little notepad and pen as well.
      • October 15th, 2013 at 3:36 pm
        Stephanie says:
        Those cold weather items are such great things to add to bags where the winters are especially harsh and the notepad and pen is a great idea I hadn't thought of. Thanks, Tiffany!
      • October 21st, 2014 at 2:21 pm
        Emily H. says:
        We used to help with a breakfast for the homeless on Christmas morning and my dad talked to a few guys who loved to write and the next year he brought notebooks and pens to give out. I won't ever forget that.
        • October 29th, 2014 at 8:10 pm
          Stephanie says:
          I got chills from that story, and now I won't forget it either. As a person who has loved to journal and draw my whole life, you really touched on the importance of honoring the creative impulses of the human spirit. Nourishment for the soul is every bit as important as sustenance for the body. Such a beautiful story! Thank you for sharing it.
    8. October 19th, 2013 at 4:41 pm
      Seri says:
      Thank you so much for the Blessing Bags idea. We volunteer weekly at a shelter in Fort Worth, but I have been trying to think of ways to help those I meet while driving as I usually don't have cash. I am thinking with Sam's Club bulk packages and looking for coupons and sales for other things that you could make lots of bags for not a ton of money. Thank you so much for this post!
      • October 19th, 2013 at 10:23 pm
        Stephanie says:
        You're welcome Seri, and thank you so much for taking the ideas and turning them into action. You will, without a doubt, have some very happy beneficiaries of your kindness!
    9. November 5th, 2013 at 3:11 pm
      Marcie Pomeroy says:
      I would like to include a link to your Thanks Giving Board on my new blog, but I also wanted to download the printable. When I click on the photo, it is just opening the webpage in another window, but not the printable. Can you email me the printable? or let me know what I'm doing wrong:) Can I recreate the idea on my own computer with a link? Please let me know what works best. Thank you!
      • November 6th, 2013 at 8:33 pm
        Stephanie says:
        Hi Marcie-

        Thanks for bringing this issue to our attention. The link has been fixed so you should have success in printing it now!
    10. November 5th, 2013 at 5:14 pm
      Diane says:
      I think this is a great idea but wanted to make a suggestion for what goes in the bag... many of the homeless I have worked with had dental issues and were unable to eat hard foods that required biting or lots of chewing (apples, beef jerky, nuts, etc) Soft foods like the mandarin oranges and fruit gummies you have pictured are perfect.
      • November 6th, 2013 at 9:33 am
        Stephanie says:
        Thank you so much Diane, the information you provided is very helpful! We definitely want to include items that are useful and easy to consume. Great tip!
    11. October 22nd, 2014 at 6:18 am
      Ann in GA says:
      I have made bags similar to this and keep them in my car for when we see someone on the side of the road asking for help. When Old Navy has a sale for this gloves for $1, we get there early and stock up It's great to put a pair of gloves in a bag. (We use Publix plastic bags for bigger blessing bags.) We also include a printed out list of local shelters that give assistance. We give a dollar in quarters. And we put a Bible track in and make sure to tell them we will be praying for them. And then we do!! I have found that the people we give them too are truly grateful and it is as much a blessing to us to give them. So glad you posted this!!
      • October 22nd, 2014 at 9:43 am
        Stephanie says:
        Kudos to you for your kindness mission. I love your ideas for items to put into the bags and saying a little prayer for the recipients is a bonus blessing! Thank you for putting your own ripple of kindness out into the world!
    12. October 22nd, 2014 at 3:32 pm
      Karen says:
      My daughter and I do Christmas bags for homeless children and distribute them at a local soup kitchen. The bags include things like: stuffed animals, toys, coloring books, crayons, toothbrush, toothpaste, toboggans, gloves, combs, brushes. We also do a Ziploc bag full of individually wrapped candy, juice box, cookies, etc. last year we did 45 bags and our goal this year is 60. We get help from family and friends who make donations.
      • October 23rd, 2014 at 9:42 am
        Stephanie says:
        Oh Karen - what a blessing you and your daughter are to your community! I can only imagine how it cheers the recipients to receive so many well-thought out things that are age appropriate. You have given me some great ideas on how I can expand upon the blessings bags! Thank you!!!
    13. October 22nd, 2014 at 10:25 pm
      David says:
      Thank you for posting this. I saw it on facebook.
      After my divorce, I was homeless for 8 months. Items for keeping clean on the go, like wet wipes, are priceless. Water is actually hard to find sometimes. Meal vouchers or gift certificates, even for a $1 hamburger could be a good addition. Also, some towns have a business card or a sheet that lists public services, food banks, soup kitchens and job searching locations. But the biggest help is when someone is willing to help you back into normal society. My "Landlord" is also recently divorced and he has let me live in a trailer on his property. In exchange, I mow the lawn, wash dishes, fix meals and even help with his kids on weekends. I know that not every homeless person would fit this type of situation, but I am grateful to God for this blessing.
      • October 23rd, 2014 at 9:50 am
        Stephanie says:
        David -
        Thank you SO much for weighing in on this from firsthand experience of what goods are helpful and useful. It will help everyone who comes across this page to know what kinds of items are needed most, myself included. I am printing your list so I can modify the bags I make. I'm relieved to hear that you have found a situation that works for you so you can make the climb out of homelessness.
        Thank you so much for taking the time to share your story, you have touched my heart.
        May God bless you and support you on your journey! .
    14. October 23rd, 2014 at 1:09 pm
      angie warrington says:
      We make these to hand out at our church when people in need stop by. I love the idea that was shared about putting in a child's toy. I also wanted to add that in cold weather places to add those disposable hand warmers that you can add to your pockets or gloves. And we live in the Pacific North West and I am adding inexpensive rain ponchos to the blessing bags. ( just my .02) thanks for letting me share
      • October 29th, 2014 at 7:46 pm
        Stephanie says:
        Hand warmers and rain ponchos are both great additions that would be very useful for the climate where I live as well.

        I appreciate that you took the time to share these ideas so that others who want to make their own bags, can customize them for their own climate. Thank you!
    15. October 23rd, 2014 at 4:26 pm
      Jenn says:
      We have a thankfulness tree that we made from branches that fell from a tree we have in our front yard. We arranged the branches in a vase and made tags from scrapbook paper and string. In the spring and summer, the tags are made with green paper, in the fall we use orange and yellow, and then in winter we use brown paper. Every evening we each pick a tag and write something we are thankful for. Each month I empty the tree from the tags and we start again.

      We make Christmas cards and cookies for the residents of a local nursing home, leave random surprises at the doors of people around town, and this year the kids are making enough small salt dough ornaments to hang on all the PO boxes at the post office. We try to do 2 random acts of kindness a week.
      • October 29th, 2014 at 7:48 pm
        Stephanie says:
        I believe that random acts of kindness create ripples that can transform this world for the better. Thank you for doing your part to make people happy from your corner of the world!
    16. October 24th, 2014 at 12:13 pm
      Shar Perreira says:
      God bless you Stephanie, what a super awesome and wonderful idea and all the comments that followed! I would also add travel size kleenex tissue, dental floss, lip balm and a roll of Certs or similar breath mints! We are blessed to be a blessing! Peace be with you! Blessings to all of you! A Maui, Hawaii sister in Christ, that will be starting these blessings here in Maui. Thank you for sharing! Let's do this.... Because we can, because God will supply all of our needs!
      • October 29th, 2014 at 7:53 pm
        Stephanie says:
        Absolutely Shar!

        We can all do things to change this world for the better and I am so delighted to know that you will be starting this in Maui (I used to live on Ohau)!

        All of your ideas for items to add to the bags are great ones and I thank you for contributing them. God's Blessings right back at you, and Mahalo for your generous spirit!
    17. October 25th, 2014 at 1:08 pm
      Julia says:
      My roommates used to do a Thanksgiving tree. We all wrote things we were thankful for on leaves and anytime someone came over to visit they could add a leaf to the tree.
      I never really thought about the "giving" part of Thanksgiving though. I really like the idea. I'd probably go with lifesavers instead of chocolates though because chocolate would probably melt in my car.
      • October 29th, 2014 at 8:02 pm
        Stephanie says:
        I love this leaf on the tree idea that you did with your roommates. I wonder if they would be game for taking leaves off the tree that were filled with little "giving" ideas and agreed to follow up on those? That would be one way to round out the giving part of Thanksgiving! (And good point about the chocolate!)
    18. October 28th, 2014 at 8:22 am
      Faith says:
      This is a great idea. The only thing I might omit is the chocolate in favor of a candy that doesn't melt. I life in Florida so it would definitely melt all year round here, but in other states it would melt during the summer. And after it hardens again it gets the white residue on the outside that looks yucky.
      • October 29th, 2014 at 8:06 pm
        Stephanie says:
        I hear you, Faith - chocolate would not work in Florida! Others who wrote from colder climates mentioned the need for items such as hand warmers and gloves, while people from rainy areas recommended adding plastic ponchos. Definitely customize them to whatever your climate so they work best for the people you will be giving them to. Good reminder!
    19. October 29th, 2014 at 12:22 pm
      Ami says:
      I would add a toothbrush and a small vial of toothpaste to these bags. Hygiene is a difficult thing to maintain while living on the street, and yet good hygiene does so much for one's dignity.
      • October 29th, 2014 at 7:56 pm
        Stephanie says:
        I am so touched by your concern for the dignity of others. Personal hygiene items are definitely important to include. Thank you!
    20. December 6th, 2014 at 1:45 pm
      Marie says:
      this is such a cute idea!
      However, I suggest reading Pay It Foreward instead of watching the movie, the book is so much better!
      • November 18th, 2015 at 1:57 pm
        Stephanie says:
        Isn't that how it goes - the book is always better than the movie! Thanks for the suggestion!
    21. December 6th, 2014 at 4:50 pm
      Jaz says:
      What a great idea! I love giving these to the homeless community in my city! The Birthday Project did this in New York City last summer and she even published pictures and a video about it! What a great way to spread the holiday spirit!! xo
      • November 18th, 2015 at 1:59 pm
        Stephanie says:
        That's awesome! Thanks for letting me know about the Birthday project, I' going to look into it!
    22. February 27th, 2015 at 9:51 am
      Debbie says:
      Love this idea, we live in Northern On Canada and the winter has been harsh. I am now thinking of doing this for a Warming shelter one of the churches has , they ask for food donations but these baggies would be so much better.. and making them up with my 9 year old will be a lesson for her as well. Thank you for sharing!
      • November 18th, 2015 at 2:01 pm
        Stephanie says:
        Warms my heart to know you'll be doing this with your 9 year old! Bless you for paying blessings forward.
    23. June 11th, 2015 at 6:49 am
      The Little Tourist says:
      I love the fact that this is an act of service that children can easily participate in!
      Thanks so much for sharing! ;)
      • November 18th, 2015 at 2:02 pm
        Stephanie says:
        My kids truly enjoy participating - they always want to be the ones to hand out the bags, and I love it!
    24. August 2nd, 2015 at 7:25 pm
      Blessed Onaiwu says:
      Hi, I'm trying to do this exact same thing for a school in need in Nigeria. Can you please give me some ideas?
      • November 18th, 2015 at 2:07 pm
        Stephanie says:
        The basics would still apply - unless you are not allowed to send food items. In that case I would send paper goods like tablets and notepads as well as pencils and pencil sharpeners. For fun items, how about stickers and some notes of encouragement? Hope this helps!
    25. August 3rd, 2015 at 7:06 pm
      lala says:
      Love your website's my go to..and I'm starting off with the birthday bucket!! Thank you..
      • November 18th, 2015 at 2:10 pm
        Stephanie says:
        Glad to hear it! The Birthday Bucket is a fun one, I hope the lucky recipient enjoys it!
    26. November 3rd, 2015 at 10:02 am
      Crystal P says:
      I have been wanting to make Blessing Bags for awhile and just did not know where to start - I appreciate the list of things you put into yours. The one thing that I will be adding to mine is a tract and a Bible. :)
      • November 18th, 2015 at 2:09 pm
        Stephanie says:
        Inspiration is always a great addition. We need more than food to feed our souls!
    27. November 19th, 2015 at 3:30 pm
      Melissa French, The More With Less Mom says:
      What a wonderful idea. We will be practicing our verbs this Thanksgiving.
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