Designate a Day to Show Unexpected Gratitude

gratitudePhoto by psd

Our two year old may be an absolute handful, but she is also one of the most grateful children I know.  What a  treat to hear “Dank you, Mommy!” many times throughout the day.  Whether I’ve refilled her juice cup or gotten her precious tricycle unstuck, her thankfulness is always enthusiastic, pure, and authentic.

Receiving spontaneous, unexpected gratitude nourishes the spirit and affirms our work. But it’s easy to get caught up in the daily-ness of life, and in doing so, we may forget to extend appreciation to the people around us.  Active families need a simple system to make sure gratitude receives the honor it deserves in our lives. A very simple solution is to designate a day to express gratitude to recipients who won’t be expecting it!

1. Pick a date and mark it in pen on the family calendar

Our family is going to choose the 14th of the month to show gratitude.  The 14th is when our rent is due every month, so that day is already circled on our family planner and it will be easy for me to remember.  Maybe your family would like to designate one day a week, or perhaps once a quarter would work better for you.  Think about the systems your family already has in place, and make a small adjustment to make a place for gratitude.

2. Keep a running list of those who have blessed your family

Start your list with the people you interact with most frequently – parents, grandparents, teachers, clergy, etc.  Once you open your eyes to the way others bring helpfulness, joy, encouragement, and guidance into your life, you’ll find your list will overflow with ideas.

  • Perhaps you could add the doctor, midwife, or doula who assisted you in bringing your children into the world.  Maybe there is a special child care provider or other family support person who has played a meaningful role in the life of your family.  To keep a family healthy and well-functioning requires a little outside help sometimes – don’t neglect saying “thank you” to those who have helped your family.
  • What about the people in your community who work tirelessly to create a happy, healthy place to live?  Firefighters, police officers, city officials, librarians – these are all people in our community who deserve our gratitude.
  • Consider the leaders of special groups to which you belong (homeschooling or local food co-ops, organized playgroups, even message board administrators).  Serving in a leadership role is often a time-consuming and thankless job, and words of appreciation can go a long way towards inspiring motivation to continue.

I think you find once you get started, you’ll never run short of people in your life whom you want to bless with gratitude.

3. Invite your children to be an active part of the process of extending thanks

This is much easier as your children get older and are able to communicate more effectively about who has had a positive impact on their lives.  Older children may want to keep their own running lists to draw from on Gratitude Day.  For younger children and babies, parents may want to take a moment to think about who their children would say “thank you” to if they had the words to express their thanks.  This may be a special teacher at church or child care, or perhaps another mom from a playgroup who always takes time to engage with your little one.

Once you’ve put a gratitude system in place that reminds you when to be intentional in expressing thankfulness, you can let your creativity guide you in how to show your appreciation. Child-created artwork is always well-received, and it’s hard to go wrong with a batch of homemade cookies.  Write a letter to the editor to publicly proclaim your gratefulness, or slip a handwritten note into the hand of one whose work you appreciate.  Practicing the art of gratitude will often birth new and unique ways you can speak thanksgiving into the lives of others.

Yesterday, our Canadian friends and community members celebrated Thanksgiving. It is wonderful to have a national day to be thankful, but we don’t have to wait for a national holiday to say “thank you!” Does your family have a designated day or way to show thanks? How are you already modeling the importance of gratitude for the children in your life?