The older I get the more grateful I become. Living and working in the inner city has exposed me to more human suffering than ever I wanted to believe existed. This has heightened my awareness of how truly grateful I am for my life. It has done the same for my children. New York City is a great place for kids to live and grow in so many ways. My daughter has been to Carnegie Hall on school trips at least 3 times and my son has gone to more museums than I can count. But, the constant hustle and bustle of city is also tough on kids. They are exposed to so much so early in life. My kids have asked me some tough questions over the years, like “Why is that woman sitting in the middle of the street without any shoes?” or “Why is that man cursing so loud. Can you make him stop mommy?”
My daughter recently took a moment on the ride to school to discuss the concept of empathy with my son. She said that empathy isn't feeling bad for someone, it's feeling bad with someone. I thought it was a great definition.
Whenever our kids see something disturbing while we're walking on the street or riding the subway, my husband and I always acknowledge the pain and suffering that they observe and remind them of how grateful we ought to be. A few years ago, I started a tradition with my kids at bedtime. We say a prayer and then each of us says one thing that we are grateful for. They've had some simple and humbling responses over time. “I’m grateful for healing”, “I’m grateful for mommy” “I am grateful for everything and everybody”, “I am grateful for my family” “I am grateful for my school”, “I am grateful for animals”, "I am grateful for pictures" ….
New York City is the Mecca for capitalism and commercialism with so much of absolutely everything (good and bad). At times, it’s tempting for kids and adults alike to focus on what we don’t have as were bombarded with advertising at every turn. Our bedtime tradition has become a vital way of shifting our attention to all of the great things that we do have. We've recognized that the greatest things are in fact, not things. Our nightly gratitude list is as much a reminder for me to be grateful everyday as I hope it instills a lifetime spirit of gratitude in our children.
This Thanksgiving, we’re going to gather up all of our gratitude and make a keepsake – a wreath or a collage – I’ll figure out something and share it with you next time!
In the meantime, check out these books that inspire gratitude:
Carol Higgins-Lawrence wrote her first story at the age of five. Her father paid her a quarter for it and she's been writing ever since. She's taken a variety of courses in writing for children. Multicultural perspectives are of particular interest to her. Carol is of Jamaican descent and was born and raised in Canada. She has a BA in Communications and Sociology and she has completed coursework towards a MA in TESOL. She has worked as a literacy educator for the past 15 years. She currently lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband and two young children. You can visit her website at carolhl.weebly.com
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