I walk softly and almost silently on the grass, still wet from the scheduled sprinklers. As I arrive in the spot I meant to come, my eyes fall as if in prayer, no not as if, I bow my head to pray. As I pray, my heart spills over with gratitude. In whispers only I can hear, I pray, “Dear Father in Heaven. Thank you for the time I had with my father. Thank you for his smiles. Thank you for the things he taught me; to work, to learn, to treat others with kindness, to look for opportunities to help, to be grateful and positive. Thank you for my family and life itself. In Jesus Name, Amen.” With my head still bowed, I read the words etched in my father’s headstone. I’m careful with each step in this place because to me, this place is sacred. It’s sacred because of my history with the man who’s life is memorialized here.
When I visit my father’s grave and think of his life, the sacrifices he made for me, the relationship we had and the things he taught me, I am grateful. No one has to tell me to be grateful or make me feel that way. It just happens. I often feel these same feelings when I read or hear stories from the past, stories of our nation’s history, of people that suffered and overcame extreme conditions and situations. When I hear these stories I’m not thinking about how old my car is or the new smart phone I deserve. I recognize what I have and how fortunate I am.
Today is Veteran’s Day. What greater way of instilling gratitude than to show our children what they have to be grateful for. Gratitude is not taught by scolding the child that complains, “Mom, I’m the only kid in my class that doesn’t have an IPad.” Gratitude cannot be pounded into you. It comes from a genuine recognition and appreciation for the abundance around us. It comes from talking to the neighbor that was injured in WWII. It comes from understanding the perspective of a Vietnam Vet that struggles to cope with PTSD. It comes from stopping to say thank you to a man in uniform we pass on the street and then telling our child why we stopped.
When we read about or watch a video of the hardship that so many men and women have suffered in our behalf and for the cause of freedom, we are thankful. We can’t help but be thankful. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”(John 15:13)
History is a great teacher. Not just the history in the text books but the stories of real men and women that lived through it. The black and white photos that grab our hearts and turn them toward our fathers and mothers. The heirlooms passed from generations to generation and the weathered smile of that old veteran in Walmart. Even fictional stories based on historical events can lead to thoughts of empathy and impress gratitude upon our hearts and the hearts of our children.
Everywhere you look online, on facebook and twitter and everywhere in between, November is the month of gratitude. Many people argue that its cliché and while the rest of the year is full of complaints and discontent, all of a sudden everyone is grateful in November because we have a holiday marked on the Calendar called “Thanksgiving.” I certainly would encourage people to be a little more grateful the rest of the year but I appreciate this month that gives us a formal reminder to stop and be thankful for what we have rather than dwelling on what we don’t.
Take a few moments to read and view some of the stories of veterans below that are sure to instill gratitude in the hearts of everyone. Share them with your kids and then find some way to share and express your gratitude to a vet you know.
Stories of Vets
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