A Grateful Heart

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This is such a busy, commercial-laden, materialistic time of year….for some. Like many others, I enjoy decking our halls, doing the lights tour, and helping our ‘Elfie’ move from spot to spot. We do the Christmas cards, the stockings, and also more presents than the children ever need.

But, I read my classes and my own children a wonderful Christmas story each year called Silver Packages by Cynthia Rylant. It’s so beautifully written and it makes me think of Briceville, Tennessee where I first worked up in the hills much like the setting of this book. I may as well lived in New York City to those precious children. Many had never been to Knoxville, or if they did, it was a special trip. They were so enthusiastic and grateful during our guidance classes together. They were just grateful kids because many of them had a small world with not a lot of frills.

Silver Packages is about Christmas, yes, but it’s also about citizenship, generosity, and having a grateful heart. (**Spoiler alert!:)The poor boy Frankie dreams, prays, and wishes for a doctor kit every year at Christmas. A rich man in wool coat brings the poor children presents every year, and Frankie never gets the doctor kit he dreams of. He does, however, get lots of things he needs from this rich man; he gets hats, scarves, gloves, and socks, among various toys. Frankie while at first disappointed, grows grateful and happy for the only presents he and siblings receive each year. Then, Frankie moves away for medical school, moves back into his hills, and becomes a doctor for the community. This summary just can’t do the book justice so check out the book yourself!

What I love about this book is the beauty of the grateful heart. It’s so easy to get caught up in the materialism of Christmas, or really the commercialism of this country. And, I am no exception. I struggle with the idea of what I want vs. what I need, and what my children want and need. Fortunately, growing up modestly, my parents instilled in me the beauty of experiences and not just things. I may have had to wear the homemade Jams my mom sewed me in fifth grade and the Eastbay shoes in sixth while my peers were sporting the real deal. Did I yearn for some of the fancy neighborhoods and clothes my friends had? Yes. But, did I have the gift of going to the beach every year, going to the lake on our old ski boat, and even going on some ski trips. Yes. So, yes, I was fortunate compared to a lot.

Now, I still feel fortunate compared to a lot. And, if you’re reading this, than you are too! To have a home, a computer, electricity and food to eat. Now, that is fortunate. That makes me grateful. But, how much do we really need to be happy? Not that much. It’s Maslow’s Heirarchy of needs, and some of the children already get that. They thank adults for teaching or coaching them, they say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, and they don’t complain when their parents don’t buy what they want. But, when you have the means, it’s sometimes hard not to go overboard.

I want to remind you; I want to remind me that giving our children too much won’t give them a grateful heart. Now, I’ve met plenty of affluent children who are grateful, and just as many poor children who are not grateful. It doesn’t mean that privileged families can’t raise grateful children. It’s a sense of entitlement that breeds a greedy, unhappy heart. It’s always wanting more, instead of celebrating what you have.

If we want grateful children, we shouldn’t cave in to everything they want, whether we have the financial means to do so or not.  Don’t let them pout when they don’t get what they want,  and  don’t give in even if it’s just the little Hotwheels car in the check-out lane at the grocery . It’s healthy to not get everything you want. It’s much more rewarding to earn it, or have to wait to get it. It makes us celebrate experiences more than things. If we want grateful children, we need to also show we value non-materialistic things. We model for them by giving our time, our service, and our hearts to the needy. We must be humble.

I hope you and your family get the ‘silver package’ you need this holiday season and not just those fleeting ones you want. I hope your holidays are filled with a  grateful heart.

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