Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Discovering True Thanksgiving

When I was a child my family had more than its share of lean times. I remember sometimes we didn’t have telephone service because we couldn’t afford it and it was disconnected. I remember the majority of our clothes were old hand-me-downs. (Our brand-new clothes were reserved only for school and church.) I remember sometimes receiving second-hand toys for Christmas (i.e., the Nintendo that a neighbors’ parents sold us because they were buying their son a brand new Sega).

I also remember the even leaner times. I remember having to go to local charities for back-to-school supplies. I remember going to local churches and soup kitchens for food. I remember going without a car and walking almost everywhere we went. I remember even having one or more of the important utilities shut off for being months overdue. And I remember the feeling of going to bed sometimes with a grumbling belly because we didn’t always have enough to eat for dinner.

It was tough being a kid and going through such difficult times. And I’ve done everything in my power to make sure my kids never once have to worry about like I did. However, I often feel like since my kids have always had their needs (and a healthy amount of their desires) provided for all their lives, they don’t understand nearly as much as I do how much we have to be thankful for now. Once in a while, I get caught up in the negativity of my life because of having a chronic illness (fibromyalgia) and having to deal with all the complications it brings to day-to-day living.

However, I always have in the back of my mind how hard my childhood was and I can clearly see how much things have changed for the better. We may be on a very tight budget because I can’t work full time, but we are warm and dry inside a modest home we now own. We can’t afford a lavish diet, but we never go hungry and I’ve learned to make satisfying and healthy meals with what we do have. All of our utilities stay connected all the time. Everything we give our children is new or gently used. We own two vehicles and actually get to do fun activities together as a family occasionally. Life isn’t perfect, but it is a far cry from where I once was!

My kids, on the other hand, have no idea how bad things can get for some people. Although they aren’t selfish or spoiled in the least bit, they often overlook the good things we do have and are sad or disappointed when they find something they really want and it simply isn’t possible. Don’t get me wrong, I find myself doing that periodically, too. It’s human nature to reach for better things.

Still, I want to find a way this Thanksgiving season to emphasize how blessed we truly are. To help remind me of all the positives, I’ve been participating in the 30 Days of Thanksgiving challenge. (I am a little behind yet, but you can check it out here if you are curious.) It has been an eye opener and I’ve noticed my automatic outlook on day-today things is improving. Consequently, I am going to establish a Give Thanks jar in my house. And I am going to encourage each member of our family to write something each day or so that they are thankful for and then put it in the jar. On or the day after Thanksgiving (since we are hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year), I plan to read over all of them together to share with each other and give thanks for the wonderful life we have. And if it goes well, maybe we will have it year round, picking other holidays or special occasions when we can share more of our blessings.

What do you do with your kids to encourage a positive and grateful attitude?

© 2013 Amanda R. Dollak

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