There is a Buddhist saying that I reflect on around Thanksgiving time. He said, “Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at lease we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.”
Well, I think Buddha said it all. His message is that we should be thankful for what we have, because it can always be worse. And when it comes right down to it, that’s the way life works. It may not always be everything you had hoped for, but it also is not your worst nightmare.
In today’s times, it seems that there is always more to have, more to do and more to ask for. The pace of our lives can be so hectic, that we literally don’t take time to stop and smell the roses, watch a sunset, or listen to the gentle breathing of our sleeping child. But these are all things to be thankful for. Actually, if we stop to look, there are blessings and goodness in our lives on a daily basis—if only we take the time to look.
And teaching our children gratitude is especially important. They watch how we respond to our daily lives, and learn to do the same. If we pay only attention to what didn’t go well during the day and the problems we had, then they will learn to pay attention to all the negative, as well. And if they watch us appreciate the little things, and be grateful for the positive things about the day, then they will learn to be appreciative and be positive, also.
But are children today truly grateful for anything? Sadly to say, I see very little of this. Thankfulness comes from seeing what they have, are given, and exposed to, with appreciation and recognition that these things aren’t necessities. You know they are not grateful for the dinners cooked, the kind of house they live in, or the clothes they have. These are a given. But, what about the gifts, privileges, opportunities, electronics, etc. they receive?
Too often I see children with a sense of entitlement; they expect what they have, what they get and what they are allowed to do. The experiences of having to earn a reward, wait until a certain date to do something or a certain age for specific privileges, seem to be passé. Children expect what they get. They are not typically grateful. Not only that, but they are not necessarily content with what they get, either. They want the newly-released video system, the designer clothes, the bling and camera on the cell phone (or a cell phone in the first place.) I see children with four or five video systems, a TV and computer in their rooms at the age of five, and 16-year-olds who want a ‘cool car’ and balk at having to drive the old family vehicle. And are they grateful? Not a chance.
Teaching gratitude is extremely important. It makes our day to day existence feel worthwhile. Take your children to a soup kitchen; have them give away some toys to a shelter; help them do a food drive. These experiences can help them recognize that there are those much less fortunate than they. Oh, and yes—please make them wait for that brand new whatever, say ‘no’ to yet another game system, and remember how old they are, and how many years there still are to give them privileges, before putting all the latest technology in their bedrooms. Help your children know what it is to be thankful. This lesson will last them a lifetime.