“Because I have been given much
I too must give
Because of thy great bounty Lord
Each day I live
I shall divide gifts from thee
With every brother that see
Who has the need of help from me
Because I have been sheltered, fed
By thy good care
I cannot see another’s lack and I not share
My glowing fire, my loaf of bread,
my roof saved shelter overhead
That he to me be comforted
Because I have been blessed by
thy great love dear Lord
I’ll share thy love again
According to thy word
I shall give love to those in need
I’ll show that love by word and deed
Thus shall my thanks be thanks in deed”
The words of one of my favorite hymns have been playing in my head lately. I find myself humming the familiar tune as I go about my day. The words have especially been on my mind as we enter the month of November…the time of thanksgiving.
Gratitude is a virtue dear to my heart. It is the virtue I value above all others. It is a virtue that was at the center of my life growing up, as my parents made it a focus and priority in our lives, and I have tried to make it a focus in our children’s lives.
From the time our children were small we made every effort to center our lives around gratitude, the father of all virtues. Counting our blessings became a part of our nighttime ritual as we implemented the tradition (borrowed from friends) of going around the room and having everyone share something they were grateful for that day.
We have also encouraged our children to express feeling of gratitude to those who bless their lives…thanking the person holding the door, thanking the waitress who brings the meal, thanking the teacher who prepared the lesson, writing thank you notes, etc.
I have always felt that gratitude precedes joy. So often we are focused on finding joy, when the secret to finding joy is to first find gratitude. Gratitude brings joy, as well as peace, contentment and fulfillment. That is why counting your blessings is such an effective tool for overcoming despair, jealousy, discouragement, and dread.
I believe there is a reason that the month of Thanksgiving comes before the Christmas season of joy and wonder. It prepares our hearts. It aligns our souls and helps us remember what is really important. It eradicates those human sins of self focus, greed, jealousy and entitlement. It reminds us of our place in the universe and turns our eyes back to the Father of the universe.
This November we decided to take our yearly gratitude challenge to another level. We usually hang a gratitude tree in our home and every night when we count our blessings as a family we take the time to write them out and hang them on the tree, as a visual reminder of all we have to be grateful for. Seeing our gratitude tree fill up with blessings is a humbling reminder of how blessed we are.
This year we decided that rather than simply count our blessings we would spread those blessings and share them with others…
Thus begins our month of giving.
(Let me first say I am sharing this journey with you not with the desire to say, ‘Look at us,’ but rather to share ideas with you that have been shared with us. This journey was laid on our hearts by God- to Him all the glory!)
The idea began with Miss Molly when she approached us a month ago saying that she would like to make cookies for everyone in her life that she is grateful for. She said that she wanted to share her appreciation for the many people in her life that are a blessing to her. As she began making a list of everyone she wanted to thank we began talking as a family and from this simple idea a bigger plan arose.
“Why don’t we spend the entire month of November spreading joy and gratitude through Random Acts of Kindness?!” the kids suggested.
So the planning began. We spent the month of October making lists of people we wanted to express love and gratitude to, as well as making lists of fun, random acts of kindness we could perform.
November 1st we sat down as a family and began our month of kindness by filling the calendar with all of our ideas. We looked at each day, the commitments and appointments of each day and picked Random Acts of Kindness (or RAOK) that would fit in that day. It was fun to see the kids so excited and so full of ideas!
The next step in the plan was the funding. Many of the RAOKs planned for the month were free but others were not. To fund our month of kindness we came up with the idea of not purchasing any groceries for ourselves (other than milk and bread) for the month of November and eat only from the pantry and freezer for the month. We then could use our monthly grocery budget to purchase supplies for our RAOKs.
I loved this idea!
First: it helped us clean out the freezer and rotate the food in the pantry by eating up some of the canned goods that are dusty and haven’t been used.
Second: it teachers our kids the wonderful skill of “making do” and creative cooking.
Third: it allows them to recognize the great blessing of a full freezer and pantry.
Fourth and most importantly it teaches sacrifice. Their acts of kindness and gratitude have a lot more meaning when it comes from a sacrifice they are willing to make.
Everyone is excited about the month ahead. I will be posting weekly about our RAOK adventures.
Does anyone want to join us in our Random Acts of Kindness challenge?
It promises to be a grand adventure!