Thanksgiving is not a tradition I grew up with, being Australian. As an adult, I do not connect with the history or the story, nor do I understand the obsession with Pumpkin Pie. What I do love though, is the opportunity to connect with a spirit of gratitude in the midst of what can be a very commercial, very consumer-driven time of year.
Living in Amsterdam, we are a week into the throws of Sinterklaas’ arrival. Shoes have been laid out before the fire, songs have been sung at the top of my children’s voices so that Sint might hear them and put treats in their shoe (check back here tomorrow for more details). We have eaten more Pepernoten (pronounced Paper-note-n) than is actually good for us and the controversial Zwarte Piet costumes are out in force!
With Christmas just around the corner, my girls have been so busy compiling their wishlists, I’ve needed to slow us down a little so that we can catch our collective breaths and remember the blessings around us. So, I logged onto Ted and listened to one of my favorite talks.
Want to be happy? Brother David Steindl-Rast, a monk, and interfaith scholar suggests that happiness is born from gratitude. It really is that simple.
My girls and I make a point of actively practicing gratitude every day. It became part of our bedtime rhythm when my eldest was struggling with FOMO (The Fear Of Missing Out – I mean who doesn’t right? The last time I was at Plum Village in France, Brother Phap Lu’u dedicated an hour to the topic. If you have an hour, I recommend listening here, even if it’s while you are peeling potatoes. It’s one of the best Dharma talks I’ve heard.)
So what do we practice?
Every night, after our relaxation, I ask my daughters to tell me three things that happened today that they are grateful for. They talk over the top of each other in excitement as they list the things that happened (playing with a friend, colouring at school), the things they were able to do (playing at the park), the things they were given (presents from family members, chocolate to eat), but what was interesting was the longer we practiced the deeper their moments of gratitude became.
At least once a week, my youngest is grateful that she loves her family (even her sister who has usually tortured her in some way that day), that she loves her friends and her teachers, and that she loves, get this, all of the people in the world. I do not know how we managed to deserve this gorgeous heart but that kid has taught me more about gratitude than any monk or any book I’ve ever read.
How do you practice gratitude with the kids in your life? And have they taught you anything?
In the meantime, Happy Thanksgiving to you all x