~ Richard Foster~
From the time they were old enough to talk, I wanted my children to learn the art of saying “thank you” upon receiving a gift.
In anticipation of the event, such as a birthday or Christmas, we would talk about gifts, the thought behind the gift, the money spent on the gift, the importance of gratitude and sensitivity to the feelings of the giver.
I can still remember when Sweet Pea was two years old. We were having Christmas with the extended family: grandma, aunts, uncles, and cousins. I sat with her as she opened each gift, shared her excitement, then watched with pride as she set the gift down, scanned the room for the giver, made her way to her chair, wrapped her chubby little arms around her neck, and said, “Thank you so much Grandma!”, before going back to her spot to open the next gift. Needless to say she was always the last one to finish opening all of her gifts. As the years wore on, it became comical to watch as each of my four children opened a gift with glee, set it down, scanned the room then trampled over mounds of strewn boxes and wrapping paper until they found the giver to give that personal “thank you”, then stumbled their way back to their spot to open the next gift.
Since children are an open book, we also talked about facial expressions. Opening a pair of socks from grandma may not have had the appeal of the newest toy, but the love, money, and thought behind the gift were just as important.
We did the same thing for birthdays and birthday parties. At such events, it is not unusual to open a duplicate gift. We actually practiced for such events, so that a petulant, “But I already have one!” could be replanted with, “This is the best. Now I have two!” It worked out pretty well; all duplicate gifts went to Grandma’s house so that they had toys to play with whenever she babysat.
It is not too difficult to express genuine gratitude on special occasions such as birthdays and Christmas, but how does that compare to my daily gratitude? Like the child who expresses great joy over receiving the coveted toy, I frequently express my joy to God over the people and things that mean so much to me. However, like the child who receives socks for Christmas, I often fail to thank God for the things that I need but have come to take for granted: my health, the health of my family, my strength, mental abilities, freedom, democracy, a job I love, a steady paycheck (I could go on and on), until, of course, I am in danger of losing one of these things.
I can’t remember the last time I thanked God for my health until I suffered through two days of a stomach virus. A stomach virus; how small that is when I know of countless people who suffer on a daily basis for years with chronic and even terminal illnesses. Yet I need a wake-up call in the form of a two day virus to remember to thank God for my health.
Can you relate?
“You are my God, and I will give you thanks;
You are my God and I will exalt you.”