Monday, November 23, 2009

Giving Thanks

I've been working with my Sunday School class for the entire month on being thankful. (Yes, I teach Sunday School. Corrupting the minds of youngsters is my passion. Thank you.)

It's not that easy to do. They are kids. They don't understand what all they have to be thankful for. They are thankful for their toys and that Wizards of Waverly Place is on before bedtime now.

But, they are church kids. And as church kids, they have grown what little bit they have grown hearing that they should be thankful. So, they want to be. They want to be thankful because they think it'll make God happy and because it'll be the right thing to do and because anything that makes that stupid old Miss Jessi shut up and get to the craft is the right thing to say.

And, you know, frankly that's a start. It's better than not knowing you're supposed to. Or not wanting to. Or not caring.

But, it's an ongoing challenge to teach these kids about how very, very thankful they should be. Thankful that they are alive. That they have parents who love them. That they don't know what addiction or abuse or neglect looks like from the inside. That there is food in their fridge and a car in their driveway. That the electric stays on and the water stays running. That no one is trying to kill them or the people they love. That the sun keeps coming out and they keep being able to see it. That they can walk and run and play. That they have the freedom to just be kids sometimes.

It's hard to explain that not every kid has that. That there are kids who live in fear, in pain, in hunger, in desperation. Kids who raise their siblings. Kids who pay the bills. Kids who live on the street. Kids who don't know what playing really means.

That those kids aren't across the world, or across time, but across the street.

I love Thanksgiving. And I think of it as a family holiday. The whole point for me is to see my family. All of my family. In all of their dysfunctional glory. You know, we put the fun in dysfunctional...

But I very seldom do what I ask my Sunday School kids to do. I very seldom just sit down and say thank you for all the ephemera. All the pieces of faith or fate or whatever you believe in that put me where I am. Thank you to God (because for me it is faith), sure. But also thank you to my mom, and my stepdad (who has been a truly excellent dad) and my grandparents and my baby brother and my husband and my kids. Thanks to my aunts and uncles and cousins and my church and my friends and you, faithful readers.

We are not just islands in the sea. We are the sum of our relationships. We are who others have molded and made us to be. We are a reflection of our parents and our teachers and our mentors and our peers. All of the good inside of us started out as a good inside someone else.

And we owe a debt of gratitude. A debt that can be paid with words, with love. We owe it to everyone who has given us a little piece of their own good.

I won't tell you what to do. I won't tell you to call your mom and say thank you. I won't tell you to track down one of your old teachers and tell her how much her attention meant to you. But I will tell you that for the second time in my life, one of those teachers who made an impact has died before I ever told her how much of an impact she made. I will tell you that I never tell my mom thanks for being my mom, because, well, it's sappy and because I'd feel weird and because I'd cry and she'd cry and it'd be Steel Magnolias all over again, but I want her to know. Not that she is a superb mom, because I assume she knows that, but that I know that.

I won't tell you who you should thank or that this is the time to get up off your butt and do it. But I will tell you that time is fleeting. It goes faster than you realize. This week, I'm going to worry a little less about getting the mortgage paid or the kids picked up on time or my desk cleared off or getting home in time to watch Supernatural and a little more about saying thanks to those who deserve my thanks. They are many.

1 comment:

Steve said...

LOL at "my family put the fun into dysfunctional".

Great post.