“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”
― Marcel Proust
The Holiday season reminds us to enter into a deeper place of gratitude. In the midst of the hustle the season unfailingly delivers, nestled in the in-between moments, are golden nuggets of gratitude wrapped in unadorned paper. We are reminded to carefully unwrap these moments and study their content: blessings come in the largest – as well as the smallest – of packages and are often unassuming while not beckoning for our attention.
While many of us make a habit of expressing and noting gratitude year-round, sometimes we fly past the opportunities too quickly while being pulled towards the next task on our agenda. Life is full and demanding, and it takes intentional effort to slow down and give gratitude our undivided attention. It requires effort.
Amongst family gatherings during Thanksgiving, gratitude is passed around the dinner table; many of us take time to prepare our thoughts of gratitude in the same way we carefully prepare our favorite dish. We humbly give thanks to the day-to-day happenings as if seeing them first time. We gather at the table with anticipation and leave satiated, full in body and spirit. Family walls come down – every family has that member who invariably takes on the role as gardener, who sews the seeds and brings in the sunshine. Love grows and we are reminded of what is special about each and everyone in our lives.
And then it’s Christmas’s turn to remind us of the same. As we light up our trees, houses, and neighborhoods, we light up our hearts. Again, we are humbled and grateful for all the light in our lives. And as if it were perfectly orchestrated by something or someone greater than us, the nights darken earlier so that the lights of the night have a chance to shine longer and brighter.
In January, lights come down while the nights remain dark. I always think there should be an ordinance for lights to stay up through the winter months. They remind us to be lighter and to reflect. That’s why I love the Holidays. Spirit. Humbleness. Slowing down. Gratitude. They enwrap us. So how do we encourage gratitude in our everyday lives? Afterall, if our children see us expressing gratitude, they will do the same.
Children do as we do, not as we say. If they see and hear us showing gratitude, they are more likely to do the same. Simply stated: they learn by doing. It takes 30 days to develop a new habit. We have 25 days this year between Thanksgiving and Christmas, therefore we all have the opportunity to develop a new habit between now and then: the habit of expressing gratitude.
Here are some simple ways to practice gratitude with your kids this Holiday season:
– A gratitude clothing line: pin up a string of twine, write notes of gratitude each day on post-it notes or pretty paper, and use decorative clothespins to attach to the line.
– Fill a jar with notes of gratitude and then reread them at the end of 25 days.
– After cutting out traced hands, write notes of gratitude on each finger and palm.
– Make a backyard time capsule by filling a jar with notes of gratitude, bury, and dig up the following year to reread and refill again.
– Place smaller tree branches into a vase, cut out paper ornaments, and write notes of gratitude on each. Or make a paper gratitude tree.
Gratitude turns what we have into enough. Our kids might have extravagant Holiday lists this year: both of my kids are asking for items that can no way happen (mice and a recliner!). With enough practice and preparation, they won’t be met with disappointment. Instead, they will be grateful for whatever the season brings and beyond. Gratitude puts life into perspective and removes all of the dizzying distractions.