One of my boys takes guitar lessons after school at the church where I work, so he regularly waits in momma’s office. To keep my kiddo from asking for my phone to see whether Minecraft has updates, I recently showed him a thank you card I received in the mail.
Earlier in the day, I had opened the envelope. The card was homemade on orange construction paper. A photograph was taped to the front. It was a picture of a group of children and one adult, each of them smiling widely. As I read the note, done in fat marker, that concluded with bold kid signatures, I knew who sent the card: a class of students and a teacher from our partner-in-education school. Each summer, we announce a drive we call, “Give a Kid a Chance,” in which we raise money for local students who need help getting the year’s school uniforms, supplies, and backpacks. Thankfully, we’re not the only faith community or nonprofit to do so.
When my child asked me who was in the photo, I reminded him of the materials we’d talked about and worked hard to collect a few months earlier. Then, he asked me for a piece of paper. I directed him to my stash by the printer, and I went back to finishing a few emails before we left for home.
Within five minutes, my third-grade child handed me a sheet of 8 1/2 x 11 paper, folded. I looked at him and asked, “For me?” He said, “Open it.”
When I did, I discovered a well-thought out note, in which my son congratulated the children and teacher on receiving the new school supplies, and thanked them for using them in school. Next, he mentioned how wonderful it is to attend school and that he hoped they had an “awesome” year.
I looked at him with sincere surprise.
“You wrote a thank you for the thank you?” I asked him.
“I want them to know how much I want them to enjoy their supplies.”
Amazingly, he doesn’t think it is unnecessary to thank the thankful.
Too often, at the end of the day, I’m tired, cranky, hangry, and distracted. Yet my goal as a parent is to be present, to listen, to see with new eyes and an open heart. In reading my son’s thank you, a moment happened in which I said “yes!” right up to the roots of my hair.
I witnessed little humans affirming there are good things in the world, not only by feeling grateful, but in the act of being gracious.
As the holidays approach and the days get exceedingly hectic and tense, it might do our families good to practice gratitude. At our house, we have a jar in which we toss small coins discovered on the floor or from the laundry. Stopping to put something in the jar helps us acknowledge something we’re grateful for.
Sometimes, we simply write what we’re grateful for on a piece of paper and slip it in our glass container. On the side of our jar, it says, “Gratitude makes this house a home.” Maybe it’s a bit schmaltzy, until the kids begin to say thank you to the thankful, and the adults slow down and let that generous spirit wash over us like falling leaves.
This blog post was originally published in Betsy's column, "Parent-ish" in Little Rock Family Magazine.