If you ask your child what he/she is thankful for, you might not get the answer you want to hear. It may sound something like, “my Xbox 360,” or “my iPod.” We are all thankful for some of the material things in our lives; after all, you wouldn’t recognize me if it wasn’t for my flat iron. Material things do make our lives more comfortable, but it’s the things that can’t be purchased that we should be grateful for. Things that money can’t buy.
Now is the perfect time to start this conversation with your child. We have so much for which to be thankful and this has become painfully clear to me in the last couple of years. With the changing economy we suddenly realize not what we don’t have, but we have to lose. Last year when times were clearly getting tougher before they were getting better, we asked our soon-to-be thirteen-year-old at the time to consider making a donation for his thirteenth birthday.
At first he didn’t seem very excited about it, adding up in his mind the gift cards he would be sacrificing by doing this. Finally, he decided to collect canned food and to donate it to the outreach agency, Greensboro Urban Ministry. Friends were invited to our house to roast hot dogs and marshmallows and were asked to bring food to donate. Boys and girls both attended, each one entering with an armload of food. It was a fun night and my hope is that it gave each child pause to realize that no matter where we are in life, there is always someone in a much darker place.
The next day we delivered the food to the loading dock at Urban Ministry. Our son got to go inside to weigh it in. When he realized that ninety pounds of food was collected, and considered how many people that would feed, he decided that he would do it again next year. Donating something on your birthday is a good practice much like donating on Thanksgiving. When our son told the nice man working on the loading dock where the food came from the man responded, “Young man, this gives me hope for the next generation.”
The time is now to prepare our children to be “the next generation.” Our children have learned much from this changing economy. Hopefully they are appreciating what they have, and naturally this time of year kids are going to have the “gimmies.” But if we can help them to realize there is so much more to life than “stuff,” then we are doing our job.
A tradition we started with our family several years ago is for each person to write down on a small piece of paper something they are thankful for. The papers all go into a bowl and are then passed around the Thanksgiving table. Each person picks and reads what was written.