Last Sunday, during Sunday School, the 4-year-olds in the room were asked what they were thankful for during this special time of family and festivities. They each thought long and hard before giving their answers, and most of them expressed thankfulness for far more than friends and family.
I often think of how sayings like “friends and family” or “thoughts and prayers” have become throwaway phrases. What we want to say to each other does more for ourselves than to those for who intend it. This isn’t true for 4-year-olds.
When you ask a toddler a serious question, you expect a silly answer. But if you stop and think about it, what a 4-year-old tells you may be silly to you and serious to him. So when I asked a group of toddlers what they were thankful for this year, they had some serious responses.
One kid said inventions. After I chuckled, I listened. He drew a complex diagram on construction paper. I saw wildly shaped tubes and widgets of all sizes. The kid told me that it was a pancake maker, kind of like the one Pee-wee Herman had in his "Big Adventure" movie. His explanation was dramatic and exciting. At that moment, I was thankful for imagination and creativity.
Another kid illustrated what he wanted to give thanks to by drawing a barely understandable spaceship. On board were people and animals. To me, it looked like lines of different colors going in a thousand directions. To him, it was an image of family and friends, all together, headed on a mission. I thought about how thankful I’ve been in my life to have people on board when I needed them.
The other Sunday School kids shared their gratitude for pets, cars, breakfast, and things so out-of-this-world I began to wonder if they knew the meaning of appreciation.
While they played with toys and made a mess of everything around them, I realized it was me. I was the guy that didn’t know as much about thankfulness as they did. Sure, I say please and thank you when I remember to or when I really want to communicate to someone that I care. What I don’t do is think of the unconventional things in my life, big and small, all of which I should be thankful for daily.