I took some heat last spring after I published my rant on the topic of Mothers Day. But in the months since, I’ve come to realize what was bothering me was the question of gratitude, and what precisely that means.
As mothers (and fathers!), we do a lot for our kids. We give and give and give until we’re worn out. And the thing is, we don’t really need to be told “thank you.” Right? Wouldn’t we all rather our kids show us their appreciation every day, rather than getting cards and crafts and/or a fancy dinner one day a year?
If your answer to that question is “no,” this post probably isn’t for you.
But if your heart lit up, going “Yes, yes yes!”, then it’s worth thinking about Thanksgiving as if we were the kids in that equation, rather than the parents.
In other words: Does God (or the great nation of America, if you’re not the believing type) want/need our “I’m grateful for” lists on this on one day, only to have us revert to business as usual the following day? Or would the world–and not coincidentally, we–be better off if we showed our gratitude in our actions on Thanksgiving Day and every other day, too?
(In case you’re wondering, that’s what you call a rhetorical question.)
My point is this:
If I am grateful for the roof over my head and the food on my table, the best way to show it is to do something to ease the suffering of those who don’t have the same benefits.
If I am grateful for my spouse and children, the way to show it is not to focus on what annoys me about him/her/them, but on what makes them such a gift in the first place.
And if I am grateful for the gift of free speech, I should not abuse it by hurling insults, invectives, half-truths, false news stories and outright lies at anyone, no matter how high the stakes.
If you use Joy to the World: Advent Activities For Your Family during Advent, I’d like to suggest that the Advent Calendar is a really good way to put this idea into practice. Why? It offers a structure, and structure can make the difference between lasting change and a quick reversion to “business as usual.” Here are a few ideas to stuff your Advent calendar with mercy in motion:
- Pull a page (or a few!) from the Random Act of Kindness calendar
- Make dinner and take it to a homeless shelter. (Make it communal by asking for help from friends on Facebook.)
- Ring the Salvation Army Bell.
- Go Christmas caroling and collect canned goods for the local food bank.
- Choose a charity and let the kids donate from their piggy banks, or do chores to earn money to contribute.
- Make gift bags with cereal packets, water bottles, gloves & scarves for homeless people.
- Have the kids help pick out Christmas gifts for families in need, via giving trees or Toys for Tots.
What other kid-friendly ways have you found to teach the practice of mercy?