Teaching myself gratitude
November 2015

By Amy Walters — I opened my email to see a picture of a little girl smiling shyly as she reached out for a small plastic toy. This sweet child was fleeing the atrocities of war in her hometown with her family. She was the same age as my daughter but had already survived more trauma than most adults ever will. And that toy she was getting from the SEND missionary was probably the only toy she had at that moment. She had left everything else behind and only had the few necessities she could carry on her back. 

I had just been daydreaming about the Christmas presents I would buy for my kids when that picture arrived. I think that’s why it hit me so hard. My kids, with their play room full of toys, and their basement full of toys, and their rooms full of toys. My kids, who would get gifts from grandparents, and aunts, and uncles, and friends. My kids who have been adding to their Christmas list every toy they see on TV.

I love getting them gifts and seeing the joy on their face with each package. But I also desperately want them to understand how fortunate they are. I want them to see the picture of this little girl and be moved by compassion to help her.

But how do I teach them true gratitude? By learning and demonstrating gratitude myself.

I too had a closet full of clothes and a house full of beautiful things and a fridge full of food. I too had been spending a lot of money lately, each time telling myself, “This is the last thing. I’ll take a break from buying after this,” only to buy more the next week. If I wanted to teach my kids gratitude and contentment, I needed to learn it myself.

But I, too, love getting gifts. I love unwrapping a present that was specially chosen for me. Once my husband made the mistake of telling me he had bought me a little surprise. I waited in anticipation only to discover that the special surprise was a gallon of milk that we had needed. I quickly informed him that those words should not be used so loosely!

I looked back at the picture of this little girl. I had everything I needed and more. How silly that I sit here and rack my brain to create a Christmas list when she has next to nothing. I think about how her parents must feel to not be able to give her the things she needs and wants. How it must lift their spirits to see the smile on her face. How could I not help out a fellow mama?

So with this fresh conviction to demonstrate gratitude on my mind, I told my husband that instead of spending money on gifts for me, he should give the money to refugees,. He liked the idea too and said to donate his gift money as well.

So that’s the plan. My husband and I will sit down with our kids and show them the pictures of refugees. And we will tell them what we plan to do. I don’t know what kind of impact it will have on them but I know it’s a lesson that I need to learn.

If you, too, want to demonstrate gratitude by giving to refugees, you can find options to donate through SEND here.

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Amy Walters
Amy serves as the director of SEND's Communications Team.