Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings. William Arthur Ward

Thanksgiving is approaching quickly!

Generally, the holidays are a nice time for us to choose to restrict the usage of our devices in order to spend time together as a family catching up, sharing stories, and reminiscing. Try to leave your phone in another room this year when the family gathers together at the table for a traditional meal. But, maybe after dinner and some good quality time connecting (by disconnecting)- you can put these three helpful tech tips to use! Even though grandma and grandpa may not like the idea of using technology at all (or know how to), these two uses are sure to bring them joy.

1. FaceTime, Skype, or Other Video Calling Services.

Far away from your loved ones? Video calling is a free service that almost anyone can access with the availability of wifi. Don’t let distance keep you from telling that absent relative how much they are missed and loved this holiday season! You may already do this, but the holidays can be an especially sensitive time, and checking in with family can be so meaningful.

Plan a time to contact your missing relative, gather around the iPad or computer and take turns saying hello. What a great way to feel included and connected, even from a distance!

2. Picture and Video Sharing

As I write this, I am remembering past family reunions where someone would be in charge of lugging the projector and box of slides with them to watch a family slideshow. The television will be nice later when everyone is lounging around to watch football and old holiday classics, but why not use that giant screen to let everyone display family pictures from throughout the year?

Employ the help of a tech-savvy family member (or YouTube) to find out how to connect certain devices to your television. If you have something like Apple TV, you can connect to the television wirelessly and throw you pictures and videos up on the big screen without any wires; but, there are other simple ways (i.e. HDMI cord) to connect your computer. Plan this in advance and ask family members to send photos and videos from trips, vacations, or daily life adventures (that they haven’t seen on social media already). Take some time after your big meal to come together in the living room and spend time sharing about recent events and activities.

3. Help those in Need

Did you know there are millions of children around the world who do not have food to eat or access to clean drinking water? Organizations like Compassion International have a child-sponsorship program that enables you to connect with a child from another country and build a relationship. They even have an easy app that allows you to write letters, send special holiday donations apart from your monthly gift that provides community, education, food, water, and certain kinds of healthcare.

Check out their website (or other similar organizations that provide the ability to sponsor a child) and spend some time researching where they’re from, what political issues they are facing, and some of the spiritual needs of their country and community. Take some time in the midst of your feast and family time to write to your sponsor child and/or commit to sponsoring another one! Or, you can use Google Search to find homeless shelters and organizations in your community that need extra help during the holidays to feed the hungry and needy in your city. Here is a list of country-wide Thanksgiving volunteer opportunities to check out as well! Commit as a family to do something for others during a holiday that can so easily be swept up in selfishness and consumerism.