Tuesday, November 21, 2017


 Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday.  It continues to hold deep meaning for me, from both its historical and spiritual perspectives. Thanksgiving commemorates a successful harvest for the newly arrived Pilgrims, achieved through the beneficence of the host culture of Native Americans.  Two peoples, seemingly completely different, sat together to celebrate the bounty of Mother Earth and the collaboration of her children.  A societal ideal for which we still strive today.

For my family, Thanksgiving is the one holiday that we can fully celebrate together.  Gratitude for the blessings of life transcends religion.  While we try to live gratefully everyday, it's so nice to have one special day dedicated to being thankful.  Just like we try to respect our mother everyday, but treat her extra specially on Mothers Day.  Filling our homes with family and friends, filling our table with festive foods, taking time to acknowledge the goodness in our lives; this is the essence of Thanksgiving, and a huge cause for celebration.  

Gratitude is a difficult character trait to instill in our children, because it stems from a feeling.  What we can teach are the physical actions that demonstrate gratitude, such as saying "please" and "thank you".  At first, saying these words may not mean much to a child, but when practiced over and over, they do plant seeds of gratitude.  Children who are accustomed to saying "thank you"  come to recognize the actions or words that prompt that response.  For example, if they are taught to say "thank you" every time someone gives them a snack, they will eventually identify receiving a snack as a signal for thanks.   We can also encourage them to perform acts of kindness, such as calling grandma or a sick friend,  and let them know how much their actions are appreciated.

Children learn best by observing the important adults in their lives, so we can teach gratitude through our own behaviors. We can be sure to say thank you to people who serve us, either at a gas station, restaurant, supermarket, etc. If  a child says something nice, or makes us a picture, or picks up his toys when asked, we can let him know how grateful we are for his thoughtfulness.   We can talk about how much we appreciate the people and things in our lives, helping children see that everything we have is a gift; nothing should be taken for granted.

Prefacing a request with "please" can engender gratitude too.  By saying "please", we acknowledge someone else's control over what we want.  Even if we are sure to receive it, whatever it may be, "please" teaches us that we are not owed or entitled.   We respect the kindness of others. In this way, "please" is an advanced expression of gratitude.  I once met a boy in the supermarket parking lot who was clearly being taught good manners.  I had just emptied my cart into the trunk of my car.  He approached me and asked for the cart.  I said "Please", meaning please take it.  He said, "Please?", thinking I was telling him to say please.  

If  we truly believe that everything we have is a gift, then gratitude becomes easier.  And when we feel grateful, we feel happier, and more at peace.  That's a wonderful gift to pass on to our children.

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