As an aunt, trips to Toys R Us for Legos, bikes and other things my young nephews and nieces "needed" became part of my job description. Prior to heading out to the city, lectures and possible threats from their parents would result in perfectly behaved children on the way, but the trip back home could be quite another story.
The back seat was not exactly conducive to starting a Lego production or riding a new bike, so playing with their newly acquired toys had to wait until the children were safely returned home. Often the stress of having to be good for so long and the delay in playing with their new toys would result in restless, crabby kids.
Playing the tough aunt was not my forte, so my typical response to the situation was to ask the crabby children to practice a little gratitude. After the predictable push back, my request would often lead to conversations about our blessings and appreciating all the good things in our lives. This scenario happened with such frequency that the kids actually made up a little song about gratitude that they would sing in perfect harmony.
I'd like to believe that the kids and I took a few lessons from those Toys R Us adventures about how cool it is to be thankful. I expect their little song will be taught throughout the generations as they turn their own children on to the importance of gratitude.
For two-thirds of the world, profound poverty is the norm. Many do not have a clean water source, sufficient shelter, heat or warm clothing. A new blouse does not get lost in their closet. A new book does not get lost in the pile. We were born advantaged and live in very fortunate circumstances. It is, indeed, appropriate that we designate a holiday for thankfulness. On this special day, we have the opportunity to pause and concentrate on being grateful for the abundance surrounding us.
And yet, we know how easy it is to get caught up in preparing for guests, losing focus on the reason we gather. Soon, it's on to the next holiday, as the Friday immediately after marks the official start date for Christmas shopping.
As Thanksgiving approaches, we might do well to tune up our gratitude muscles and practice frequent, sincere thankfulness. Our coaching team makes it a habit to dedicate a portion of each team meeting to acknowledging wins, small and large, and other things we can be grateful for. This practice contributes to a culture of appreciation in our small but mighty company. We have noticed that the intentional and regular practice of gratefulness actually causes us to have more to be grateful for. It helps pave the way for our best week, best month, and best year yet.
Sister Joan Chittister and Archbishop Rowan Williams take gratitude to a whole new level in their book "Uncommon Gratitude." They challenge readers to practice gratitude in all situations – to go beyond choosing only the things we judge as good, and to find a way to be grateful during life's inevitable challenges and hardships. Such a shift can be transformational at most and foundational at least.