Sunday, November 25, 2012

Thankful Tree

This year we decided to create a thankful tree that everyone in the house could add a "thankful" leaf to. Some people wrote funny things like, "The Walking Dead," and others wrote more serious notes like "I am thankful for my girlfriends and the men who love them" (my favorite by far written by my girlfriend Alex after an amazing old-school friend brunch). Nathan asked Ella what she was thankful for, and it was adorable watching him try to explain the whole thing to her. How does a seven-year-old explain being thankful to a two-year-old? I guess the same way that anyone does, by telling her it means the things you are happy about. It got me thinking about how well Ella understands this idea. How thankful is she for all the things she has? I know there is so much in her life that she takes for granted, just as there is so much I take for granted in my own life.

One day a few weeks ago, she and I were leaving a store and I had her put a dollar in the Salvation Army can. She asked me why we did it and I tried to explain that other people don't have all the things we have.

"They don't have toys?" she said, incredulous.

"Nope. Some people don't have toys, or coats, or nice shoes, or anything."

"Why they don't have anything?"

"Because not everybody is lucky like us."

"Like us?"

"Yeah, some people don't have any nice things."

"Why don't they get them at the store?"

This went on for quite a while, and I did my best to explain the harsh realities of life to a two-year-old. I feel so lucky that having a difficult life is something I have to explain to her because she wouldn't otherwise know about hardship. I want her to appreciate the things she has, but how do you teach a child to appreciate? How can she "thank her lucky stars" unless she understands that others don't have any stars to wish on?

Of course I want her to be thankful, but I also want her to hold on to her innocence as long as possible. I want her to think that the world is full of rosebuds and lollipops for at least a few more years, and then, when she does learn the truth, I hope she'll be the kind of person who wants to do something about it. But the only way that will happen is if I show her that I'm that kind of person, in little ways everyday. Right now those tiny acts of kindness and giving might not mean anything to her, but someday, when she understands, hopefully it will have sunk in anyway. And then she'll know that being lucky is the kind of gift you are meant to give away.

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