My visits to orphanages in countries like Russia, China and South Africa have been some of my greatest experiences.
On some trips, I took my children with me. We met little ones with no parents, no rooms of their own, no toys or clothes to call their own. Seeing their stark circumstances changed us. We learned that people who have little are often more grateful than people who have much.
Gratitude is not natural. It’s an attitude we must teach to and nurture in our kids. We have to lead by example. This can be hard for parents in wealthy nations because we are used to having so much compared to other parts of the world.
In the Bible, a man named Paul wrote that our attitudes should be like Jesus: humble and selfless (Philippians 2:5). He reinforced this idea and said we should also be thankful:
“And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father” (Colossians 3:17, New Living Translation).
Why does God make such a big deal about having a thankful attitude?
I think it’s because He understands that an ungrateful and complaining heart is the opposite of a humble and selfless heart. It is, in fact, a proud heart — a heart in rebellion to a parent who is a loving provider. A heart that’s unwilling to be thankful loses out on many blessings.
Tim Tebow, whose parents were missionaries while he was growing up, was taught to form habits based on gratitude: “I’m just thankful for everything, all the blessings in my life, trying to stay that way. I think that’s the best way to start your day and finish your day. It keeps everything in perspective.”
Since children are born selfish, we must patiently train them to practice gratitude. It’s not an easy task, but it’s a worthy one. A child with a thankful heart feels content, and that’s enough to make any parent happy.
Adapted by permission from Growing Together in Gratitude, by Barbara Rainey, FamilyLife Publishing, 2009.
Though we wish it were so, the reality of life is not always a Cinderella story. But during some difficult days, I learned there was something better than a magic wand to wave away my troubles.
This year, we challenge you to start a new tradition with your family by capturing moments and memories and sharing them with one another at year’s end.
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