A Practice for All Ages
by Amanda Lack, Little Lambs Preschool Director
To have thankfulness is one of those phrases that’s pretty easy to say, but harder to do. Every November we start hearing about being thankful, but I propose that we start adding it to our vocabulary as early as we can start talking. Here’s one reason why: 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (NIV). Two things stand out to me here. First, it says that being thankful is God’s Will for me; I don’t know about you, but I want to do whatever it takes to remain in His Will for my life! And second, please note that is says to be thankful in all things, not for all things. Thankfulness changes our perspective on our world. This says to me that we have this incredible power to choose thankfulness over what our circumstances or feelings might be screaming at us. It makes thankfulness both a posture of our heart and a mighty weapon to keep in our tool belt. Thankfulness is the key that unlocks the power of perspective.
At the start of each new year, my family has a tradition of selecting a word or phrase that will flood our thoughts, words, attitudes and actions. A few years ago, our word was “thankfulness”. It began simple, but ended profound; to this day, it’s one of my favorite years of this practice. One of the ways we intentionally incorporated it was to take a few minutes each night, with very few exceptions, to say out loud to each other what we were thankful for. It was so neat to see the progression of thankfulness, especially in my 3 children, go from thoughts like, “I’m thankful that we got to eat a sweet treat today” (nothing was off limits in the context of someone’s thankfulness) to things like, “I’m thankful that I have a family who loves me and too many freedoms to count…” Instilling thankfulness into children is one of the best things we can do for society, in my opinion. It counteracts the entitlement attitude we see so prevalent today. It makes us better, kinder, more mindful of others, and mostly it changes our perspective of how we see the world. Eventually with thankfulness, we create this new positive attitude of “Sure, I can’t control everything that happens around me or to me – it’s quite okay to be mad or sad, but I can control my perspective about it and in the midst of anything, find something (no matter how small) to be thankful for!”
I want to leave you with a few examples of perspective shifts that I’ve witnessed in kids through this intentional application of thankfulness. Don’t overlook them in their childlike simplicity, the power in thankfulness knows know age, race, religion, etc. Here are some examples I’ve heard from children over the years: “I don’t like what we’re having for dinner, but I’m thankful to go to bed with a full tummy; I know not everybody does.” “I don’t like to play that boring sport, but I’m thankful I have working legs to run with anyway.” “I don’t want to do my homework, but I’m thankful I have a smart brain that knows how.” And finally, “I’m really sad that my Aunt died – it’s not fair, but I’m thankful that we have hope in Jesus no matter what our hearts are feeling.”
Practice thankfulness every chance you get, there’s nothing too big or too small to be thankful for.