Saturday, December 3, 2011

Giving thanks

I added the last of the leftover turkey to big pot of chili yesterday. Another Thanksgiving celebration has come to an end.

It almost seems like Thanksgiving never happened. The retail world packed away the Halloween paraphernalia and jumped right into Christmas, with hardly a nod to one of our most important holidays. Apparently important doesn't always equate to profitable.

Maybe I shouldn't be irritated that Thanksgiving got lost in the rush to start Christmas. Maybe I'm too old fashioned. But I think we need to spend more time giving thanks for what we have and less time focusing on what we want.

As a parent, cultivating an attitude of thankfulness in our children is a daily challenge. Dan wants everything right now – everything he sees at the store or in a catalog or on a commercial. I tell him to put it on his wish list for his birthday or Christmas.

I must repeat that line a lot, because now Monika has started telling me what she wants for her birthday. (I don't think she quite understands, though, because tonight she told me she wanted one of the newborn calves for her birthday.)

This overwhelming desire for everything they see, coupled with the fact that they've never had to go without, makes them less appreciative of what they have.

I think Dan is old enough now to understand what I mean when I tell him that some kids don't have any supper and some kids don't have any toys, but I don't think he can fully grasp the concept. For that matter, though, I have a hard time imagining what its like to live without adequate food or the comforts of belongings.

For that, I truly am thankful. And I'm thankful we can provide for our children.

Some day, I hope they will fully appreciate the abundance in their lives. For now, I try to encourage thankfulness with this bedtime prayer. For as long as I can remember, I've said a prayer of thanks before drifting off to sleep. This is a simplified version of that prayer.

Thank you for our family.
Thank you for our friends.
Thank you for our farm.
Thank you for our animals.
Thank you for our food.
And thank you for our lives.

Sometimes Dan says it with me; most of the time he repeats the lines after me. He almost always interjects after the line about animals because he wants to say thank you for the jungle animals and the ocean animals and the forest animals. Monika joins us for the Amen. (Interestingly, when we come to the end of a story book and say The End, Monika says Amen instead.)

Regardless of how we say it, what's important is that for at least one moment each day we're focusing on what we have instead of what we want.

How do you practice thankfulness in your life? How are you fostering thankfulness in your children?

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