By Dawn Onley
I’ve started this nightly ritual with my son. After he’s finished saying his prayers (“Now, I lay me down to sleep…”) we start naming things for which we’re thankful.
When we first started doing this a few months back, he would blurt out how thankful he was for his toys. “Thank you, God for my Captain America shield. Thank you for all of my toys.”
As he prayed, he would look around his room, point to items and keep going: “Thank you for my Batman. Thank you for my Ninja turtles. Thank you for my cars. Thank you for my dinosaurs. Thank you for ABC Mouse. Thank you for my books and my Captain America poster over there.”
I told him that it was great to be thankful for his stuff, but that it’s even better to be thankful for people that make life so enjoyable. People like our family and friends, his classmates and teachers. I told him to be thankful for the food he enjoys that makes him grow big and strong and for his house when some people have no homes. I try to teach him to be thankful for blessings like his eyes to see and his ears to hear.
He is helping me gather up some of his toys, clothes, blankets and shoes to give away to an organization that serves the homeless in our community. He has gone with me to shop for canned goods and is helping me pull food from our cabinets to feed the hungry.
He’s been asking a lot of questions about why some kids are hungry and why they don’t have toys. I tell him life can be good but that it can also be unfair.
My goal is to show him that for whom much is given, much is required.
I want him to be about a life of service. While I’m pleased that he is thankful for his toys, I want his gratitude to go beyond materialistic stuff. I want him to have a heart for people – no matter what circumstances they are in – and to always strive to help make things better.
I want him to walk the tenets of the Christian faith, and not just talk it. And this holiday season, less than two weeks before his 4th birthday, I can’t think of a better time for him to see how our faith looks when it is practiced.