This may come as a shock, but they did not spontaneously start expressing gratitude upon discovering the wonders their grandparents would lavish on them. In fact, their more natural reactions were “Mine!” at the thought of getting their grubby little hands on some fabulous toy or treat. Gratefulness simply wasn’t in their wheelhouse, and most days it still isn’t. They’re little, though, so we’ll cut them some slack.
Not too much, though!
Today, Thanksgiving tables with their lovely designs will host large gatherings of family and friends expressing gratitude for all their lives have been blessed with this year. They’ll likely take turns paying tribute to those who formed their work ethics and moral compass. Most people don’t waste such a momentous occasion to express thankfulness for expensive cars and large houses–at least not the ones in my world.
I suspect if we could rewind the clock twenty-five or thirty years, we’d see the same scene at their grandparents’ homes, only they would be the ones at the kids’ table and their parents the ones showing gratitude to those who did the same for them. Families don’t reproduce thankful spirits by accident or even osmosis; however, living in and around thankful people certainly gives children a great head start.
Generation after generation, snotty nosed, selfish little people start out life focused on their own needs, and through watching the generation before moderate their own mine impulses, they learn to be grateful. They learn that the human experience is not an individual sport, and they learn to be grateful to their life coaches who countered selfishness with love and kindness, and from time to time, a good swift kick in the pants to remind them of how much they’ve been given.
Earlier this year I shared a story of opposites, a contrast between a display of a giving and thankful community against the backdrop of a screaming mother teaching a less-than-grateful lesson to her own daughter in Small Town Parades. What I did not share was that in the previous summer, that little town had been devastated by an EF-1 tornado. This little parade held special meaning as floats, bands, and community service groups marched across the very path that destroyed churches, homes, and businesses little more than a year earlier.
The people of our little town showed up in droves, removing debris, providing shelter, and simply sharing whatever they had with one another. The Catholic school had been planning a fundraiser for the following weekend, but instead of cancelling or moving forward to raise money for their own needs, they cleaned up their fields and hosted the event and diverted the funds to help pay for disaster relief. All week long, I saw friends posting messages such as, “We’re done on Lincoln Street; who needs more help?” Others replied, “We could use more help over on James.”
Not one post demanded free help from anyone. No one screamed at public servants demanding they move to the front of the line. People who had lost many of their own possessions gave from what they had left to neighbors who lost everything.
…and all I saw in response was gratefulness.
This Thanksgiving, my little grandchildren will be thankful for apple and pumpkin pie, sweet potatoes, and all the attention they’ll receive from aunts and uncles. One day, I hope their focus will change from thankfulness for the things they have to thankfulness to those who taught them to be thankful.
…and that’s the view from My Front Porch.
Tornado photos from Wood TV8 website June 23, 2015