I believe one of the most important family habits I have encouraged, is the habit of starting each dinner with a moment of thanks. As soon as we sit together to begin dinner, there is a pause and one of us adds what we are grateful for.
It goes like this..“Thank you God for (pause) ,”. It doesn’t have to be God we are thanking; it can be simply thanking the universe for a great day of sunshine, homegrown tomatoes or freshly caught fish. Sometimes our thanks are for people, like a teacher who gave one of us a good grade or for a visiting relative. For several days it was continually ‘thanks for the trampoline’ something my two teenagers purchased with their own money. When we have guests, we give thanks for their friendship. We thank doctors and therapists when we are thinking of a loved one’s illness. When my father-in-law died, we thanked him for all that he had given us during his life. Since this is now a habit, we don’t think about it, we just do it. The inspiration for the daily thanks is never far away.
I find myself reflecting on this habit and its significance to me. For some reason as this habit has taken hold, I find there are now more things to be thankful for. Throughout the day, I look at things more positively while giving thanks automatically. In the past, some of these same events might have had me complaining.
I wonder if there is any research about quantifying gratitude and its qualitative results. How many times a day did I stop in thanksgiving for anything? Maybe I will start keeping track of my moments of gratefulness and will keep a log and have a daily goal. But for the moment, I am happy with our nightly habit of giving thanks before dinner.
In the future, I would love to see my family grow and start their families with this same routine. My wish is that as common place as setting a table with napkins and utensils so will the moment of thanks prevail with future generations.
The seed for this was planted while I was growing up in a large family of eleven siblings. As we sat around the table nightly, my mother or father would start the “grace”. It was the standard, “Bless us ‘O’ lord for these thy gifts”..and so on. But following this prayer, Mom added a few things and we ended it reciting together “and bless the starving children everywhere.” It always left me feeling more grateful for the meal that sat in front of me, regardless of how humble it was, and more grateful for my life now matter how difficult the day might have been. Giving thanks, a family habit, this I believe could make the world a better place.
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