To be truly grateful, honestly thankful, and regularly aware of all we have that we don’t deserve – that’s life and life-giving. What might it look like in your home? What if gratefulness was a family value?
I think it’s safe to say that most of us take those blessings for granted. To our shame, most haven’t read beyond the preamble to the Declaration of Independence, let alone the Constitution. And because the events that secured our freedoms occurred almost 250 years ago, it’s easy to dismiss them in the midst of our busy, modern lives. I believe we do so to our great peril. But in light of this week’s Thanksgiving holiday – which marks other significant events in our country’s history – we would do well to pause and consider those blessings more closely.
We have it easy in this country compared to many around the world. We don’t fear being slaughtered because of our religious views, as is happening daily in Iraq and Syria. We needn’t wonder about the availability of the next good meal for our children; even those who struggle financially have safety nets that don’t exist elsewhere. When our kids get sick, we have access to the best medical treatment around. And yet we’re not immune to the realities of living in a fallen world – miscarriage, cancer, car accidents, mental illness – all of which should cause us to appreciate and value life, from conception to natural death. And the fact that we’re able to easily sustain comparatively healthy lives for ourselves and our kids should lead us to grateful humility.
Without periodically reviewing history prior to the founding of the United States, we can’t properly appreciate the freedoms we enjoy here. I didn’t have a good grasp of world history until studying it with my daughters, but as we’ve progressed in our lessons, I’ve been astounded at the extreme levels of tyranny endured by so many in the past. America has certainly not been perfect in its application of liberty for all – and in our ignorance of history, we’re in jeopardy of allowing ourselves to lose it without even realizing what’s happened. But the fact is that “the American experiment” really has been the greatest application of human liberty for all, and we need to remember and appreciate it.
PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS
We get confused about this, unconsciously buying into the myth that we’re somehow entitled to happiness. But the promise of the Declaration is freedom to pursue happiness, not a guarantee of its perpetual existence. We can’t always be happy in every circumstance; the realities of life simply preclude it, so demanding it is arrogant and immature. However, we’re free here to chase after our dreams – whatever they are – for ourselves and our kids. When we want to make changes, we have the liberty to do so, and we can find the means through our ingenuity and imagination. That’s simply not reality for most people around the world.
Every year at Thanksgiving I challenge myself – and my children – to think beyond turkey, stuffing, and pie. Our holiday traditions are like the beautiful blossoms on an apple tree, but we need to remember the tree’s unseen, buried roots to fully appreciate the flowers and their burgeoning fruit. This year we’ll be pondering concrete examples of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. What about you?
In my first post in this two-part series, I shared how we can express gratitude effectively when we consider people’s multiple intelligences. This is true whether we’re simply expressing our appreciation or buying something for them to say “thanks.” I covered word, logic, and picture smart in that post. Let’s consider the other five smarts.
Music smart – Write a note describing their value to you or the beauty of your friendship with musical terms such as classical, melody, in tune, harmony, and composer. (This may seem crazy at first, but I’ve done this. It is possible!) Buy them symphony tickets, make sure to attend their recitals, listen to their favorite songs on their I-pods, and spend time at a store listening to new music.
Body smart – Validate their abilities by letting them know you’ve noticed their athletic abilities/interests, their craft/art abilities that use their hands, their acting abilities/interests, and other things related to physical control. It would be very honoring to ask them if they’d like to teach you one of their body-smart strengths. Give them a gift of your time and go for walks or bike rides together or do other physical things.
Nature smart – Let these people know you’re glad they enjoy the outdoors. Affirm their interest in animals and plants. Think of a specific time that their abilities and enjoyment found in animals or plants blessed you and thank them. Nature-smart people often enjoy collecting things according to patterns so you could suggest doing that together and/or buy them something to help them with their collections.
People smart – Thank these people for helping you think things through and for being effective brainstormers and problem solvers. Celebrate their ability to read your moods and to respond accordingly. Because they tend to enjoy people and discussions, they may enjoy gifts of biographies or autobiographies and opportunities to hear presentations about current events and things of interest.
Self smart – Quiet, space, peace, and privacy motivate and help these people so look for opportunities to honor them with these things. Time alone might be their favorite thank-you gift. Gifts of journals, devotional books and anything personalized will most likely be appreciated.
I could go on-and-on. That’s why I wrote a book on the topic of multiple intelligences! There are so many applications that bless us and others. Go for it! Consider the person’s smarts when choosing how to say “thanks” and they’ll say “thanks” in return.
Security. What every person needs. What communities can provide.
Protection. Shelter. Safety. Refuge. Defense. Authentic. Safeguard. Sanctuary. Guard. Sure. Supported. Safe and sound. Trustworthy. Wise. Caring. Real.
Freedom from harm,
Freedom from hopelessness,
Freedom FOR truth,
Freedom FOR happiness,
God. Jesus. The Holy Spirit. Forgiveness. Salvation.
A slightly different version of this post was published on April 22, 2013.
Last week, I posted about the difference between being grateful and living gratefully. When children live gratefully, they’ll develop self-respect, self-control, and respect for others. Do you value these qualities in children? Then, help them root gratitude in beliefs rather than in circumstances.
Three related beliefs cause us to be grateful. They are life satisfaction, contentment, and inner peace.
What do we model before children in our lives? Do they hear us
- complaining about what we don’t have?
- whining about not getting our way?
- talking about past decisions that have ruined our lives?
- worrying about the future?
- disappointed in people who let us down?
- angry because things don’t satisfy us?
- compare ourselves to others as a way of determining our worth or happiness?
- not say “thank you” because we’re taking things for granted?
- not say “thank you” because we think we deserve to be treated well?
If, like me, you have faith in the God of the Bible, these negative behaviors are even more devastating to children. They indicate more than a dissatisfaction with life. They indicate a dissatisfaction with God. Children will discern this and it will negatively affect their attitudes toward life and God.
So, where are you today on a scale of 1-10 when judging your contentment, inner peace, and satisfaction. What’s the evidence? We all have days here and there when we may whine, complain, and not say “thank you.” But, in general, are you living gratefully?
If you’re not pleased with your score, perhaps the most important thing you can do is examine what you’re expecting to satisfy you. When we put our hope in the wrong things or people, we will be disappointed. Worry and anger can result.
Any changes you want to make? Go for it!
Thanksgiving is a week away and you might be wondering how to handle technology. Your kids may want to use it all the time, thus disappointing older relatives. What if technology was a discussion starter and a bridge between generations rather than a big divide? Oh, yes!
Teaching about multiple intelligences is one of my favorite things to do. people are always encouraged – and that includes the moms who attended the recent Hearts At Home convention.
Figuring out how children are smart benefits them and us in numerous ways – primarily because it can help them believe in their abilities to learn and they can choose to invest more energy in school/learning, therefore being more successful.
What if we applied our understanding of how children are smart to the theme of gratitude since Thanksgiving is right around the corner? This can work for adults, too. Do you have someone to thank or are you grateful someone is in your life and you want to remind him or her?
You can also use people’s smarts when figuring out what to buy them to express your love and appreciation.
How can we “say” thank you to those we know have these intelligence strengths? Or, since we have all eight, how can we communicate our gratitude in eight different ways that can be well received? Here are examples for three of the smarts. Come back Thursday for the rest.
Word smart – Write a note full of specifics explaining why you’re thankful. Use synonyms and strings of adjectives to amplify your point. Or, read the note to your friend or just tell the person how you feel. Record it for them so they can listen over and over if they want to. If you want to purchase or make something, they appreciate books, paper, and different pens/pencils to write with.
Logic smart – Let these people know they’re appreciated for their problem-solving abilities. Tell them you like the questions they ask you because they help you to think things through well. They tend to appreciate puzzles to solve, games related to logic, science experiments, and chances to discover how things work. A day at a children’s museum would be great for them.
Picture smart – You probably appreciate these people’s artistic abilities, use of color, and creativity. Tell them or, better yet, show them by taking or drawing a picture to express your love and gratitude. Ask them to show you their favorite colors and pictures and why they like them so much. Go with them to a showing at the art museum. Go to a craft store and buy something to create with your friend.
My niece, Katie, is very picture smart. During her middle school years, she talked a lot about becoming an interior decorator. For her birthday one year, I purchased two books filled with pictures of rooms and houses that someone with that career might have used to get inspiration. At the time, I didn’t think that’s what Katie would become, but I honored her by listening closely and she LOVED her gift. She poured over those books for a long time and thoroughly enjoyed her dreams and telling others about them.
Have these examples generated your own ideas? Great! We should probably all express our gratitude more than we do. To your success…
“Knowing which smarts are our strengths helps us make informed decisions about how to be more successful in all of life and at school. We’ll have new ways of listening, studying, and memorizing. We’ll also learn how to enhance relationships, our career, what to do in our spare time, and how to lift depression. We also can choose to strengthen our weakest intelligences, which will improve our lives.” Please click here to learn more about multiple intelligences and Dr. Kathy’s book, How Am I Smart? A Parent’s Guide to Multiple Intelligences.
Is living gratefully a choice? Is it different from being grateful?
To some extent, living gratefully is a choice. It’s rooted in certain thinking patterns, though. Without being exposed to those, would be hard (if not impossible) to be grateful consistently.
If we want children to be grateful, we need to be grateful. But, we shouldn’t assume they’ll figure out why we are grateful from just hearing us say “thank you” occasionally. They might adopt the pattern of saying it, but it will mean their gratefulness is rooted in circumstances instead of beliefs. If we talk about our beliefs and thinking patterns, there’s a greater likelihood they’ll adopt them. That’s powerful!
The thinking patterns are also essential if we’re going to live gratefully and not just be grateful when something occurs. Self-respect, self-control, and respect for others won’t be birthed by circumstantial gratitude. They will be birthed within children and adults who live gratefully.
What beliefs or thinking patterns that result in living gratefully would you add to this list? When we’re grateful:
- We are more aware of what we have than what we don’t have, what we know than what we don’t know, where we’ve been than where we’d like to go, etc.
- We acknowledge the differences between our wants and our needs.
- We don’t compare ourselves and our things to others and decide whether to be grateful based on our comparison.
- We know there’s more than material possessions to be grateful for. Many of us are first and foremost grateful for our relationship with God. We are also grateful for people to love and people who love us.
- We are grateful our daily, practical needs are met. We don’t take it for granted or have an attitude of, “I deserve this.”
- We are grateful for talents, strengths, challenges that mature us, and so much more.
- We say “thank you” and do things to express gratitude without expecting anything in return.
Which is it for you? Are you living gratefully or being grateful? Neither? Any changes you want to make? Go for it!
The ideas and suggestions Dr. Kathy shares in this video can help all your Thanksgiving visits with relatives go much better than you had hoped. Do some of this in the next two weeks and there will be a good payoff. Her ideas are relevant to upcoming Christmas celebrations, too. You may be surprised by what children and teens have told her.
Linda and I pulled into my driveway late Sunday afternoon. We were both tired from our successful time in Maine and Minnesota so when she asked what a dog was doing in my backyard, I wondered if she was seeing things.
From where I was standing, I could see my neighbor’s dog. I thought that was the dog Linda saw. I kept trying to explain that my neighbor has a dog and Linda kept asking things like, “But isn’t there a fence that divides your two yards?” I couldn’t understand why she was so confused.
Then I walked over to where she was to point out what I meant. Then I saw it. A large – large – dog in my yard. My yard!
Linda loves dogs so she marched right up to it. I stayed further back. My neighbor came out to tell us she saw it in my yard often while I was gone. Such a mystery.