Planting A Garden Of Gratitude

Let us be grateful to people who make us happy —they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom. 
—Marcel Proust

Last Christmas, I came across a unique book called Ferris Wheels, Daffodils and Hot Fudge Sundaes by Laura Jensen Walker. This gratitude journal, which was inspired by Walker’s bout with breast cancer, consists of blank pages to write on, quotes and scriptures about thankfulness, and her own lists of the thingsboth big and little—she’s grateful for.

One afternoon, Jordan noticed the journal and asked if he could write in it. I thought, “Why not?”

Here’s what my 5 ½ year-old recorded (spelling errors and translations included): “I’m thankful for . . . santa, baby jesus, momy and dade, mi house, or (our) bones, mi (my) presents, or hort (our heart), luv fum (from) momy and dady, for God, apol jows (apple juice), and I am gad dit we r nt mosdrs (I am glad that we are not monsters).”

Jordan’s creative list inspired me to write down some of the things I’m thankful for: God’s never-ending patience with me . . . two working vehicles—and one that’s paid for . . . a potty-trained child (I thought he was going to be in the Guinness Book for oldest kid in diapers!) . . . girlfriends . . . the movie Babette’s Feast and musical Les Miserable . . . e-mail . . . gooey chocolate brownies . . . good relationships with my in-laws . . . for a husband who cooks, babysits, and does laundry (don’t hate me, ladies!) . . . and for a mom who made me write thank-you notes after every holidaybefore I played with my giftsand who wrote me affirming letters as I was growing up, listing the things about me she was thankful for.

Come to think of it, my mother was an excellent model of thanksgiving. Even when she went through a lengthy illness, she kept a great attitude. And Jordan’s desire to create his own journal page reminded me that gratitude—like many of the attributes we want (or don’t want!) our children to developcan be taught by example. What a scary, but thrilling, idea!

“This, surely, is the most valuable legacy we can pass on to the next generation,” wrote Arthur Gordon in A Touch of Wonder. “Not money, houses or heirlooms, but a capacity for wonder and gratitude, a sense of aliveness and joy. Why don’t we work harder at it? Probably, because as Thoreau said, our lives are frittered away by detail. Because there are times when we don’t have the awareness or the selflessness or the energy.”

I’m going to start praying for that selflessness, awareness and energy, so I can plant seeds of gratitude in my children. Wanna join me? Maybe even on tough days we can model a spirit of thankfulness to all those around us. And pretty soon, we might be surprised at the beautiful garden of gratitude that has sprung up around us.

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