Virtue of the month for October: Thankfulness

fallThanksgiving is fast approaching, and it is a lovely thing to turn our attention to what it means to be thankful.

Why should we cultivate an atmosphere of thankfulness within ourselves?  It’s easy to get lost in the business of everyday life.  We spend a great deal of time “doing” rather than “being”.  Making a space to reflect on what we are thankful for brings our attention to what really matters.   It’s selective…when we focus on thankfulness it makes a difference to how we feel!

Thankfulness helps us to be at peace with ourselves, and with the past.  Very often we admonish ourselves for what we have not done.  We say to ourselves “I wish…”; “I should have… “; “if only…”, we focus on our omissions rather than bringing our attention to what we have done.  As American novelist Cynthia Ozick  writes:  “We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.”

Many children notice and appreciate what happens for them and around them.  Some children take everything for granted-and benefit from reminders to be more observant, and cultivate an attitude of gratitude.  Others are “half empty” kind of children.  They have a knack for noticing what we didn’t do, or what they don’t have or didn’t get.  You know what that sounds like (“I never …”;  “why can’t I…”; “It’s not fair…”, “everyone else…”).  On a good day, we can share our observations and help our children re-frame, but there are days when we go into full guilt mode, triggering actions and reactions that do not feature our best judgement.

The media takes full advantage of our insecurities.  They carry out a full-time campaign to create a need and an appetite for what we don’t have.  Life would be better if only you were prettier, slimmer, had this new ‘phone, video game, toy, clothes, and so on.  Envy and greed are the antithesis of thankfulness.  They leave us empty and hollow.

According to missionary and author John Henry Jowett, “life without thankfulness is devoid of love and passion.  Hope without thankfulness is lacking in fine perception.  Faith without thankfulness lacks strength and fortitude.  Every virtue divorced from thankfulness is maimed and limps along the spiritual road.”  Further, Joseph Addison observes “there is not a more pleasing exercise of the mind than gratitude.  It is accompanied with such an inward satisfaction that the duty is sufficiently rewarded by the performance.”  What delightful quotes to deliberate on at the dinner table!

Being thankful cultivates optimism, satisfaction and contentment.  It helps us to focus on what we do have rather than what we don’t have.  It brings us into the present, rather than suspending joy and happiness for a time in the future-when this or that actually happens.  It helps us to notice and love what we already have.  Gratitude is indeed the best attitude!

Ask your children what would thankfulness look like if…

You didn’t get invited to a birthday party?

A beloved pet dies?

You didn’t get the present you were hoping to have for Christmas?

You wish you had more friends?

Tessa Lloyd, Junior School Counsellor

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