Thursday, September 25, 2014

What My Daughter Taught Me About Gratitude

A few nights ago, I was putting my daughter to bed when she asked me, "How much money was our house to buy?" I told her the amount, which is roughly what you would expect to pay for a "starter" home in our area.

My daughter, who thinks that ten dollars is a huge amount of money, gave me a look of awe and surprise at a number on a scale far beyond her weekly allowance. Then I watched her mind settle on a reason for this astronomical number and she smiled warmly as she said, "It must cost a lot because we have such a nice house."

I was surprised at her answer. A nice house? I don't think we live in a dump, but it wouldn't be confused for the Ritz-Carlton by anyone. And to be honest, when I'm in my house, what I tend to notice is the chips in the paint, the stains in the carpet, or the cracks in the driveway. I tend to see my house as a to-do list of things to be fixed, but I realized in that moment that my daughter saw it very differently. To her, our house is amazing and beautiful.

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about gratitude. It's been a common theme through what I've seen, heard, and read lately (I even talked about it in my sermon this past Sunday), and I've been thinking about how connected it is to other things. Gratitude makes it hard to be envious, angry, or hold grudges. It decreases worry and increases generosity. It seems to be a common theme among people I perceive to be happy most of the time (and therefore wish to emulate).

And it is not how I would describe my usual attitude toward my to-do list house.

But my daughter sees the house differently and she is grateful to live in "such a nice house." For a moment during bedtime, I could see it through her eyes and it reminded me of the plastic bag scene in American Beauty. I hope and pray that I can find that type of gratitude more often, even -- especially! -- for ordinary things. Then maybe I would have more moments like my daughter's wonder or like my son looking in the laundry and shouting, "Yes! My shark shirt is clean! Awesome!" I can't imagine that would be a bad place to be.

“If you wanna kiss the sky, better learn how to kneel.” -U2, “Mysterious Ways”

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