By Dawn Onley
Each night, after my son says his prayers, we start naming things for which we’re thankful.
“Thank you, God for mommy, for daddy, for grandmummy and granddaddy, for Nana, for all of my aunts and uncles, for my cousins. Thank you for letting me play today. Thank you for my friends.”
When we first started doing this last year, 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 my books and my Avengers poster over there. Thank you for Darth Vader. The good Darth Vader.”
I tell him that it’s 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. People like his neighbors and even strangers who stop him (and me) almost daily to compliment him on how cute he is or to encourage him as he goes about saving the world as a superhero.
I tell him to be thankful for the food he enjoys that makes him grow big and strong.
I tell him to be grateful he has a warm house and his own room when some people have no homes to shelter them from the cold. I try to teach him to be thankful for blessings like his eyes to see and his ears to hear.
Earlier this month, he helped me gather up some of his toys, clothes, blankets and shoes to give away to an organization that clothes and feeds the homeless in our community. He has gone with me to shop for canned goods and is helping me pull food from our cabinets for charity. He will go with me as I gather hygiene items for our town’s homeless students this weekend.
In early December, he will perform in a talent show (his talent, he tells me, will be donning a Darth Vader costume despite the songs I’ve been singing with him to give him another option) to raise funds for homeless kids. It’s part of a kid’s organization he joined that chooses a charity each month for which to raise funds.
He asked me the other day why couldn’t we move our town’s homeless kids into our home, in the simplistic and beautiful way children solve problems. I told him that their mommies and daddies would miss them just like we would miss him if he moved in with someone else. He then asked whether we could move their mommies and daddies in with us as well. I told him that I loved that he wanted to help and that I wish we could house our town’s homeless population, but that we couldn’t. That we didn’t have the space. I told him that we could each do our part, however, to make their lives a bit easier. I try to drum home that it starts with us.
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, I’m thankful that we have begun to do just that.