On cultivating hearts

by arianne

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I’m not above a serious guilting session with my boys. Last week we had a long, long, drawn out conversation on gratitude. We said things like “I can show you some people that don’t have a single toy and they still have a huge smile on their faces…” and devolved into how terrible entitlement looks on *their faces*. We talked about the living state of kids just like them who happened to be born in a different country, a different world almost. I pointed out that they were well fed, warm, clothed, had a bed to sleep in and were well loved, and it was as if that was the first time it had ever occurred to them that these things could be enough. Are enough.

We made some plans to start regularly serving the poor in our city. These are plans we’ve had on our To Do list forever and have yet to get committed and yet to get our acts together since moving here 6 months ago. I’m half looking forward to it and half appalled we haven’t been doing it already. I wonder what it will do to them, but it can only be good for them, right? The level of complaining around here lately is forcing us to take action.

And y’all? My kids do not have a ton of “stuff”. Not at all. They have plenty, and have more than many people in the world, but it’s not like they’re swimming in stuff. And yet, the lack of gratitude would imply that they have nothing to be grateful for. As if they are the most suffering children on the planet, when actually even those suffering children find joy – which stems from gratitude.

I get emotional when I see my boys being ungrateful, and I feel like my wild emotions about “you will not be this kind of man” get my head all foggy and before I know it I’m googling some kind of World Vision videos to show them. I’m contemplating family trips to Haiti and figuratively clawing my face off because I just split up another fight over their one hour of Wii time the three of them will split today. I want to cultivate their generous hearts now.

I take things away and it doesn’t get better, so I know it’s not about the “stuff” anyway, but about something bigger. That way that we all have this pre-programmed ungratefulness that we caught like the plague from a Creation virus. They need their Jesus antidote and I have it and hand it to them but they don’t always take it. I can’t make them take it.

They have these big huge hearts, they care deeply, they ARE very grateful — but they still forget. They forget what happened to them yesterday, hell, this morning, and they forget how good God is. I linger on these things a bit longer and then suddenly it’s all starting to sound really familiar. Oh hi, I do the same thing.

So I remember the grace I get in endless supply and I remind them that they are given it too (and I give them some mama grace, too, which we all need don’t we?). It’s all good again and they are happy and joyful and grateful again and I snap a mental pic so as to carry me through a few hours from now when this is all already fading again. But it’s ok. We are (all of us) working on it.

How do you teach your kids about gratitude? 

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