Gratitude and the Gift of Giving

With Bug’s birthday falling smack-dab on Thanksgiving Day this year, I'm afraid the topic of gratitude, which I don’t take lightly, got no press here.  As November ends and we begin to gear up for December, I want to reflect on gratitude for a bit. 

I keep my Gratitude Journal in my nightstand and enter my daily top five as often as I think of it.  It’s so interesting looking over the entries since I began it in 2007.  What I used to be grateful for then and how that differs from what I’m grateful for now…  If I were to analyze it, my drive to photograph is fueled by capturing all I’m thankful for – the gift of everyday, beautiful moments, big and small. 

Not a day goes by that I don’t say a prayer in my own way for all that I’ve been gifted in this life.  I know full-well that I’m a fortunate soul and I don’t take a moment for granted.  I have a healthy, loving family with a roof over our heads, food on the table, and laughter abounding.  I have few, but real friends.  I have a purpose in raising my family.  I have passion for what interests me.  If you were to ask me what more I want in life, it’s for nothing than the continued health and safety of those I love.

We model the concept of gratitude to the kids through saying “thank you” often, through our nightly ritual of “what was your best part of today,” by teaching to not be wasteful, and through donating to those who have less.  The latter is a tough concept to present to a child of Bug’s age – that there are people who are hungry, who don’t have homes.  How to do it in a gentle way, without scaring him is truly a challenge.  We took our brown paper grocery bag from one Sunday’s newspaper inserts and filled it at Safeway for the Sunday Breakfast Mission and while I thought it was a good idea to do this with the kids, I questioned it after the fact when Bug saw me putting in the baby food jars.  He couldn’t comprehend the thought of babies without food and when I saw the confusion on his face, I wondered if he was too young to be exposed to this, but then again, when is a “good age” to face such things?  I delicately continued our conversation about those who don’t have much and we paid for the bag, dropping it in the collection bin on the way out.  As tough as it is to share these truths with a child, I think it is too valuable a lesson NOT to and I’ll continue to talk with him about giving. 

Our next opportunity to give will be for the SPCA through the collection box at his preschool.  Giving to the SPCA was something his dad and I did often back in Michigan.  We would visit the shelter with our bag of food, towels, and toys, and give a few snuggles to the animals here and there.  We visited our local SPCA a time or two here as well, but sadness overcame me so much so that I couldn’t do it anymore.  That was around the time we became feline foster parents instead.  Nevertheless, going to the shelter probably isn’t the best idea for Bug either, so I’m excited to get involved with giving to the SPCA in this way again.

Anyway, I guess where I’m going with all of this is that for me, the most tangible way of expressing gratitude is through giving.  I want to get the kids involved in giving at a young age and hopefully when they’re older, we can become more active in other ways, too. If I could raise grateful and giving children, that would be the gift of a lifetime!

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