"And cultivate thankfulness." (Colossians 3:15, The Message)
One of the first phrases that I teach my girls to say is "Thank you." It starts out forced: "Say 'Thank You.'" It moves to being prompted: "What do you say?" And now quite often--although certainly not always--it's habit. Jules even completes our part by saying, "Thankyouwelcome," one long word of politeness.
No one told me this was a good or bad idea, it was just seemed like the thing to do. Obviously, not everyone agrees with this parenting technique (because what parenting technique is universally agreed upon?). I was in a parenting group one time and some parents chafed at the idea of forcing their kids to say thank you. They modeled it for their kids, definitely. But they wanted the expression of thankfulness to be genuine, not prompted or forced. If they aren't thankful, they said, they shouldn't fake it.
Being genuine is certainly ideal, but not very often is a small child genuinely thankful for the cup of water you give her. My experience tells me that most good habits start out forced.
Brush your teeth.
Don't push. Don't hit. Don't bite others.
Say thank you.
I've heard it argued that Thanksgiving Day is artificially pumped with thankfulness, forcing us to be thankful when we'd rather not. I like it, though. I like that there's a day set aside for thankfulness because it's all too easy to get in a pattern of accepting the blessings without acknowledging them; or worse, forgetting the blessings altogether. I think President Abraham Lincoln knew what he was doing when he set aside a day for Thanksgiving. The nation was at war, his executive cabinet fought with each other all the time, and he was a man prone to deep and dark depression.
Cultivating thankfulness is important.
Especially when we don't want to. When it's hard. When our nation struggles, when our lives our in turmoil, when the future is uncertain.
Even on those days that I'm more grumpy than genuine, I've made an effort this year to mentally take stock and thank God for all the things that happen each day for which I am thankful. It was one of the habits that got me through the months of September and October when my world was chaotic and stressful.
- I am thankful for my job, where I get to teach a fun subject, encounter amazing people, and see the power of words constantly played out.
- I am thankful for my husband who has been more patient with me than I deserved.
- I am thankful for my faith in God and the power of prayer that sustained me through my darkest hours and provided for me in times of need.
- I am thankful for Sydney and Julianne, who daily test the limits of my kindness but never the limits of my love.
- I am thankful for the milestone in my education; even if in the grand scheme of things it's not life-changing, I am very thankful to have completed it.
These are the five kernels I'm planting this year, and no doubt next year will bring a new crop of thankfulness, cultivated from another year of sunshine and rain. And you? Any kernels of corn you'd like to cultivate? I never tire of hearing what other people are grateful for.