Over the month of November, our family put up a simple Thankful Tree using construction paper. Throughout the course of the month, we would add cut out leaves to the tree. Before we would tape the leaf to the tree, we would write one thing we were thankful for.
My intention for doing this was to teach my kids all about gratitude. What I did not expect was how much it would teach me.
There was one evening in particular that remains crystal clear in my memory. It had been a hectic day and I felt worn by everything. With the multitude of tantrums, parenting felt hard. With the ever growing stack of medical bills, finances loomed like a dark cloud over my day. The last thing on my mind was gratitude.
However, my son did not forget. Without hesitation, after dinner, my son asked for the leaves and markers. He was ready to write what he was thankful for. Then he asked me what I was going to write.
Sighing, I looked up from the stack of dirty dishes, soap suds dripping from my hands. “I am not sure, buddy, I will do it in a minute.”
Yet, he would not let it rest and stood next to me, holding up a leaf and marker in one hand and his finished leaf in another. From the corner of my eye, I could make out what he wrote. Family.
He was thankful for family.
It seemed so simple and yet it forever impacted me. There in that moment, I was reminded of what really mattered.
Suddenly, all of the stressful things seemed so minor in comparison to this moment. Wiping off my hands, I sat on the floor and wrote out a leaf with a heart overflowing with thanks.
I started the Thankful Tree thinking my kids needed it most. I had been tired of their complaints and ever growing list of toys they desired. Yet, what I did not realize was how much I needed the Thankful Tree.
Our Thankful Tree is now down until next year, but we have continued talking of gratitude every day. It is as simple as sharing around the table one thing we are thankful for, and it continues to impact me on a daily basis.