Teaching My Boys Gratitude

I remember the first time I ever helped put together packages for families in need. I was about 9 or 10 years old and our church was hosting a holiday food and supplies drive. The gym at our church building was brimming with people, canned goods and non-perishable foods, personal care items and boxes. I was plopped into the canned goods and boxed food section of the assembly line. There were hundreds of cans of green beans and piles of stuffing and cake mix, among various other foods.
There are this many families who would be going without a holiday dinner if it weren't for us, I thought to myself, somewhat alarmed and awestruck. Being the youngest of eight, our resources were somewhat limited at times, but I never went without food and the basic necessities to maintain a happy life. I had no clue what it was like to go without, and a part of my little soul ached for these people. It ached for the other 10-year old girls like me who lived with uncertainty every morning as they awoke if they were going to have food to eat that day. I was very young and that experience brought a whole new perspective to my small, sheltered world.
Gratitude is often said to be the key to to happiness in life. Practiced daily, it can transform life from a cold and resentful place to one of light and joy, even in the most dire of circumstances. Matt and I have experienced our own shifts in our outlooks on life when we have cultivated a grateful attitude. And it truly is life-changing.
Our goal as parents is to teach our boys gratitude. Starting now at this phase in their lives. We are diligent in teaching them to say "thank you" and try to help them understand exactly what it means. Luke is starting to understand. We are also mindfully seeking for opportunities to pair that gratitude with service and have a holiday tradition of helping out families in need.
As we went to hand out fliers for a neighborhood food drive a few days ago, I explained to Luke what we were doing. "You know how your tummy feels when you are hungry? Well, some little boys and girls don't have food to eat, so we are going to find food to give to them so their tummies don't hurt."
I could tell he was trying to process what I was saying as he scooted alongside me. After we finished handing out all the fliers, Luke looked up to me and said, "We find food for boys and guhls, so der tummies feel bettah." I was filled with so much warmth at the sweetness and concern in his eyes. I am not sure if he really understood, but that moment was charged with love.
Gratitude, coupled with service, is the ultimate form of love and charity, and that is what I aim to teach our boys. There will be plenty of faltering and failing as a parent, but I know that if I set those basic, yet profound principles for them, few other things will matter. All of their goodness and kindness will stem from that foundation.
Count all your blessings, tell the people in your life you love them, and enjoy your time with your family and friends this weekend. Happy Thanksgiving!
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