3 Ways to Help Children Become Thankful.

A Lesson from Poverty:

Have you noticed Thanksgiving is being skipped, again, by more and more retailers?  They have opted to celebrate Halloween and Christmas bypassing our nation’s celebration of thankfulness.  The Thanksgiving holiday just doesn’t ring the registers like a good-old Santa Clause campaign.

However, most families I know, especially those with young children, will take time to recognize Thanksgiving and remind their children or grandchildren about how much God has blessed them.

Being in the “poverty industry” I meet families and individuals who live on basically nothing at all; earning only a dollar a day or less.  But these extremely poor people are some of the most thankful people I have ever met.  I often have pondered how it is that these poor Christians are so satisfied and filled with faith and thanksgiving. Here is what I have learned from them as a formula for increasing my thankfulness:

  • Thankfulness comes from a place of contentment.  If we only set our eyes on the things we don’t have, we will not be content. For instance, when I see my neighbor’s new car in his driveway I can think: “I wish I had a new car,” or “How come I don’t have a new car” or I can think:  “Wow how great for him, and praise God my car is running well.”   Get the difference?  One viewpoint creates desire that I may not be able to fulfill, thus birthing a spirit of discontentment.  The other thought creates thankfulness for my neighbor’s blessing and contentment with my own situation.  Contentment is the foundation for thankfulness and is a choice we make.
  • Secondly, the poor express their gratitude openly and often.  If you are living in extremely poor conditions every gift is celebrated, especially if you are a child.  I remember delivering Bright Hope’s Hope Packs to a group of orphans in India.  These Hope Packs had school supplies in them and as the children opened them their eyes widened and their smiles revealed their crooked teeth.  I have never seen kids so excited about receiving pencils and paper, soap and a toothbrush.  They were so thankful and expressed it openly with their voices and body language.  We adults hold back too much rejoicing and excitement about the small gifts we get each day.
  • Finally, the poor are thankful to God.  As it says in 2 Corinthians 9:12, the poor praise God for providing for them.  They know each day’s food comes from God and is a gift from Him through you. They don’t take things for granted or the One who gives them their daily bread.  We also need to recognize the One who gives us our blessings.

So here are three ways you can teach your family to improve their thankfulness throughout this Thanksgiving Holiday:

1. Pray:  start your Thanksgiving Day with a breakfast prayer time that recognizes God as the giver of all blessings.  There is less “prayer-pressure” at the breakfast meal and there are fewer distractions, like football, for most of the family.  You might have to pull the chief cook out of the kitchen and the teenagers out of bed, but even a short three minute prayer time can set the thankful tone for the rest of the day.  Also share the prayer time by having each child name a blessing(s), and pray that your family will grow in thankfulness.

2. Physically count your blessings:   This year our family has started a paper chain of thankfulness.  Each night one member of the family gets a colored strip of paper and writes one thing they are thankful for on the paper.  Then one of the children loops it around the others and attaches the ends with tape.  Right now the chain is only two feet long but by Christmas Day it will reach across our bay window and back again.

3. Give to someone in need that you truly can get excited about.  Set aside whatever amount of money you can, even a few dollars can make a difference overseas.  Then search the Internet for a person or project that you can really get excited about.  Make sure it is a reputable charity by checking CharityNavigator.com or ecfa.org (Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability).  Both of these organizations have strict standards by which non-profits are measured in order to receive a star rating by Charity Navigator or to be a member of the ECFA.  Share the gift at the family Thanksgiving meal and the reasons you chose that person or project.

While the retail world wants us to forget about being thankful and use this next Thursday to make your Christmas list, our Savior appreciates our thankful hearts.  Taking the time to focus on our blessings will be a great foundation for a truly meaningful Christmas season.

Let me know your Thanksgiving thankfulness ideas in the comments below.

About C.H. Dyer

I am the CEO of Bright Hope. I am dedicated to helping those who earn less than $1.00 a day. There are one billion people in my target market (the extreme poor) and I could use some help. I am a Christian, father of three (two are internationally adopted), entrepreneur, speaker, improving writer and amateur photographer.

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