Our ministry theme for the month of November is gratitude. Sometimes gratitude comes easily. It is easy and natural to feel grateful for a warm, sunny, salt kissed morning at Ferry Beach, an evening at home with my family watching a movie and sharing a big bowl of buttered popcorn, or an impromptu trip to RI to visit my dad. Other times I have to dig deeper in order to reach a place of gratitude. When an untucked shower curtain drips water on the bathroom floor and it leaks through the kitchen ceiling, when the car won’t start in the morning because an interior light was left on all night, or when my thumb drive with a year’s worth of work (and no back up) goes missing—well, let’s just say at those times an attitude of gratitude is hard to come by! Cultivating gratitude is a discipline. It takes practice. Like most any skill, it can be learned. And the more one practices, the easier and more natural it becomes.
Gratitude is something we often find ourselves talking about with our children in November, as we come together around a Thanksgiving table and acknowledge the many things for which we are grateful. But this moment of gratitude sharing must extend beyond the holiday season. Gratitude belongs in our lives, and the lives of our children, on a daily basis, all year round. We teach our children about gratitude both explicitly and implicitly, by what we say and what we don’t say, by how we respond when blessings are abundant and when they are sparse. If it is our goal to raise our children in the Unitarian Universalist faith, to grow and nurture kind, conscientious, compassionate individuals, it is essential that we not only model gratitude, but make it an intentional practice. Every single day.
One way to encourage the cultivation of gratitude in our children is to read aloud books and other texts that convey the value of gratitude. According to author and literacy advocate Pam Allyn, reading aloud is powerful, and will impact your child’s life forever. Allyn suggests the following books, all of which model living in the world in a wide-awake, grateful way:
- Rabbit and the Lovely Present, by Charlotte Zolotow
- Andy and the Lion: A Tale of Kindness Remembered by JH Daugherty
- Thanks a Million by Nikki Grimes
- The Thankful Book by Todd Parr
- Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message by Chief Jake Swamp
- Wonder by RJ Palacio
- The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo
- poems by Naomi Shihab Nye, Valerie Worth, and Mary Oliver
How do you cultivate a grateful heart? How do you encourage an attitude of gratitude in your children? Does your family have a favorite book that conveys the importance of gratitude? If so, please share the title with me so that I can add it to our Religious Education library.