‘Tis the season for gratitude. The rest of the world may have moved ahead to Christmas, but my heart is still in the season of gratitude. We have a thousand small opportunities each day to live in a spirit of gratitude.
Yesterday, as I drove through a light sprinkle and the golden leaves fluttered in the wind as if they too were raining from the sky, it was easy to feel an overflow of gratitude.
When my child woke up in the night to vomit, it was not as easy.
Gratitude can be natural, but it also must be taught and practiced before it can become a way of life and before it can infiltrate our spirit to become a characteristic of our lives.
As we approach a week that is specifically designated for gratitude, here are a few simple activities we do with our children to cultivate grateful hearts in them.
- GRATEFUL TREE
There are many different spins on this and you can find many examples on the internet. In our family, we draw and cut out leaves on colored construction paper or on paper we have colored with paint or pencils. Then, we spend numerous nights writing on the leaves, what we are grateful for. This allows us to spend many dinners discussing our blessings and teaching the kids how to look for them in obvious and less obvious places. Each night we add our leaves to a tree. Usually, this is a brown construction paper creation that is taped to a wall. It serves as a visual reminder of gratitude.
Usually during the holiday season, there are many chances to serve or donate. Our church supplies Thanksgiving meals for the homeless and underprivileged as well as young adults exiting the foster program. When you participate in these activities, explain why to your children. They need to be exposed to what others lack to recognize their common everyday blessings as immense gifts.
As you drive around, roll out pie dough, grocery shop, or “whatever you do,” as scripture tells us, express gratitude. For the good and the hard.
“Wow, it is raining a lot. This will give us wonderful creeks and green grass in the Spring. I bet the plants are so happy.”
“I’m so thankful for our roof and warm blankets on this cold day.”
“Aren’t the clouds lovely? Isn’t it kind of God to make clouds that are pretty and interesting to look at?”
“Wow, we put away a lot of groceries. I am so thankful that we have access to all of this food. Not everyone has this blessing.”
“That Thanksgiving dinner was delicious and spending time with family was so fun. These dirty dishes remind me of all the fun we had!”
Your words of thankfulness will be absorbed by your children who are always listening and watching.
Find poems, scriptures, a Puritan prayer, a hymn, or a pre-written liturgy (or make your own) to recite each night. Recite as you light a candle, or at the end of your meal, or before the children go to sleep. The Doxology is an excellent example of this. Even my four-year-old has it memorized! Sometimes repetition and tradition can sink concepts deep into our souls and habits.
Read accounts of the Pilgrims and the First Thanksgiving. Understanding the suffering and oppression of others and what they endured to provide us with the abundance we have today is an excellent segue to thankfulness.
During this season when many are tempted to skip ahead to a time of gifts and decorations, take a moment to focus on your heart. Take a moment to rest deeply in gratitude. Turn your everyday moments into worship and teach your children to follow suit. Then, you may just enter the next holiday season with more peace and praise than ever before.