Saturday, July 24, 2010

Saying thanks

“Now one of the lepers, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him…” -Luke 17:15-16

Being thankful is not a spiritual gift or something that a child inherits from his parents. Thankfulness is a character trait that is taught and learned in the life of a child and cultivated as a teenager.

We all have different temperaments, but whether half full or half empty, a heart that gives thanks lends itself to humility and other-centeredness. As the above verse illustrates, the healed leper “turned back” and gave thanks. Selfishly, when the blessing is provided, too often we accept the gift and move ahead to the next need. Taking the time to turn around and recognize the gift giver comes with the realization that I’ve been given something, and not earned it through my own effort.

As parents, we teach the concept of thankfulness by having our kids take the time to bless the gift givers in their lives. Having our kids write notes to relatives when they send a birthday card or Christmas present teaches our kids to be thankful.

Of course, you can expect a, “Oh mom, please just write the card for me…Pleeeeeze?” But love your kids by making them write the letter or make the phone call. Model a heart of thankfulness before your kids. When the family is out to dinner, don't just tip the waiter but tell them thank you also.

A few weeks ago, I received a random phone call from a teen that had been in Shelterwood 25 years ago! He is 43 years old now with a family and wanted to tell everyone “thanks” for changing his life. “I know all the Staff are different, but I wanted to publicly say thanks to all the Staff for the difference the program made in my life. I was a pain when I was in the program, but now I’m a successful businessman, I have a great wife and I’m loving being a dad. The effect Shelterwood had in my life set the course to bring me where I am now. Again, thanks.”

What a wonderful phone call. As anyone in the “people helping” profession knows, most phone calls are from customers making strong “suggestions,” not saying thanks. I always appreciate constructive criticism, but when I pass on the thankful calls to the Staff, everyone is encouraged.

That’s the beauty of saying thanks. It blesses the giver and the receiver. When the ex-Shelterwood kid hung up the phone, he’d brought closure to an experience he’d carried for 25 years. Why did he call after that many years? By saying thanks he acknowledged the work of grace in his life. As long as he withheld the thanks, he withheld the work of that grace.

We all feel better when we deliver the thank you because we put the focus where it belongs- in the life of the giver. Our selfish pride neglects the acknowledgement, but the habit formed promotes thankful humility.

Be an intentional teacher of thankfulness. Be a parent that promotes a thankful spirit in your kids. Using the phone, email or snail mail, have your teen show appreciation.

Like the leper, teach your kids to “turn around” and give thanks.

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Joey,

I’d like to say “thanks” to you as well. I was one of the gals in Doulos 8. Our paths rarely crossed, but at some point we both ended up on the back patio during a brief break of some sort. I think it was sort of a ‘God-thing’ because no one else bounded out to join us in the fresh aire. I can’t imagine what in that short moment led you to say what you did, but you told me ‘you’re just too hard on yourself, you need to lighten up’. It really stuck with me. I’m glad that you spoke up. It took me a long time to figure out the ‘why’s’ of that. I’d like to say I’ve completely overcome the hurts that challenge me in that area, but I still struggle. I’m definitely making better choices and decisions. When I saw love in action, as modeled at Doulos/Kanakuk/Shelterwood, I determined my adult life would at least resemble that more than my family of origin. God has been incredibly good to me, but I’m still learning to trust, receive, accept, ask, and yes, give. Thanks for pausing that day and tossing me a nugget of knowledge.
God bless you, your family, and work.