In our church when kids turn 12 they "graduate" from primary (the little kids Sunday School classes) and get to go into the youth programs (age 12 - 18). At this time they are each given a booklet called "For the Strength of Youth". It can be used as a guide for them in how to choose good friends and entertainment, being honest, having integrity, making good choices, it gives them dating guidelines, talks about being healthy - physically and emotionally, talks about the importance of observing the Sabbath day, using good language, etc... It is a resource for them to turn to and have with them when they need it.
One of the sections talks about gratitude and it's importance. It says:
"The Lord wants you to have a spirit of gratitude in all you do and say. Live with a spirit of thanksgiving and you will have greater happiness and satisfaction in life. Gratitude will turn your heart to the Lord and help you recognize His influence and blessings in your life. Even in your most difficult times, you can find much to be grateful for. Doing so will strengthen and bless you."
Through our recent struggles, gratitude has been on my mind a great deal. Then yesterday our home teacher came (in our church the men are assigned families that they are to look out for and teach. They go to their homes once a month with a spiritual message. They also provide help or get help if the family is in need of anything. It is a way for us to all be able to help and look out for each other) and his message was also on gratitude. He brought a jar with some coins and challenged us to fill the jar. As we go through our days, think of things we are thankful for and put a coin in the jar. Then when he comes next month we can show him how full our jar is and how many blessings we had been given through out the month.
Last night we talked about it even more. We talked about why it was important to show gratitude, not just to others, but to our Heavenly Father. He has given us everything. As the quote above says, the more we express gratitude, the more we will discover that we have so very much! We talked to the kids about how life will be hard sometimes. We will have to move, we may have friends get mad at us, we may lose jobs or a house, we may get hurt or lose some one we love, there will always be struggles. Through all of that, if we can remember what we do have, we will have strength to continue on. Our hearts will have more peace and comfort and we will be able to feel the blessings in our lives.
After we talked about it, we let the kids think of some things they were thankful for. It started out with general things - the earth, trees, a house, cars, etc. Then they got a little more personal. One child mentioned that they were grateful that Michael and Dillon made it back home safely from Idaho. One mentioned that they were thankful for their teacher this last year. One mentioned she was thankful to get to spend time with her best friend this summer. One mentioned that he was thankful he was athletic. One was thankful for their glasses. I finally had to stop them because it was time to get ready for bed! I was so happy to see that they were catching on and seeing the little things as blessings too.
I was asked yesterday how I get through the long days with kids and trying to get them what they need and where they need to be and what I do to get through the hard times like we have recently been going through. My answer was, I remember the trade offs, the blessings. I have been blessed with 6 beautiful, healthy children who at times drive me crazy but who I love very much and can't imagine life without.