Everywhere you – and they – look are images encouraging them to want more; to clamor for the next big thing; to compete for possessions they don’t really need or want.
The advertising messages that besiege children at this time of year undercut the lesson in gratitude that parents and educators struggle to communicate year-round.
This is true despite the fact that the religious holidays that many of us celebrate this month are based on priceless things that are relatively free: family, friends, good food, music, quiet traditions, and service to others.
One way I tried to remind myself – and encourage my child – to be grateful for the wonderful things in our lives is by creating a gratitude chain. My son and I cut out thin strips of multi-colored construction paper and then wrote one thing for which we were grateful on each strip.
Our entries ranged from typical (we are each grateful for the other) to the relatively silly (we are also grateful for peanut butter cups) to the mundane (I am profoundly grateful for my reliable Toyota Camry!).
It also encouraged a conversation about what we value. I wrote down the name of my favorite book and urged my son to do the same.
He wrote down the name of his best friend – and reminded me to do likewise.
We can’t inoculate ourselves or our children from the blinding commercialism of the season. But for a few quiet moments we can focus on what – and who – we do have.
After we completed our gratitude chain we hung it up in our living room, next to the Christmas tree that come Christmas morning will tower over many beautifully wrapped gifts.
But I hope that for a moment we will be reminded that our real gifts aren’t laying under the tree; they’re found in every corner of our lives.
Corny, yes, and for that I’m grateful.