My kids are pretty healthy. A runny nose here, an ear infection there but they really don’t get sick very often and when they do, they seem to get over it relatively quickly. Still, a sort of plague has hit our house recently. A plague of monumental proportions and it has been infecting everyone in its path.
We are suffering from a serious outbreak of complaints around our house. It seems there is some sort of unwritten law that if someone is unhappy about something, anything, they must make sure that everyone else knows about it. If the dinner is not to their liking or their school assignment is too challenging, or too boring for that matter, or their sibling’s piece of cake is bigger, or they don’t like the volume of the radio, or the good pencils are all taken, or someone said something they didn’t like, or they did not get to play with their friends, or we have to leave the park before everyone else, or they are staaaarving, or they are thirsty, or it is hot, etc., etc., etc…. I could go on, the children seem to. All day long it seems, there is one disappointment after another. And everyone feels the need to voice them all. I never realized how contagious complaints are but around here they seem to feed off of each other and the negativity just grows and grows.
The antidote to all the complaining, of course, is a dose of gratitude. Since our case is so serious, so deadly (to the happiness of our home), we are going to need a steady diet of gratitude if we are to overcome this ailment. So, fed up with it all and knowing that complaining about it was counterproductive, I decided to take decisive action. With Tim’s help, I located a few blank notebooks. As a sort of spiritual prescription, I thrust one into the hands of each of my 3 older children and told them to fill them.
I read about the concept of a gratitude journal years ago. I have kept one on and off since then. The idea is to write down, before bed, a few positive things about your day. The hope is that it will change your perspective, not only at bedtime, but throughout the day. If you know you must come up with a list of blessings at night, you inevitably start looking for them all day long and, before long, you find less to complain about and more to rejoice about. Less complaining and more rejoicing is exactly what we need around here! And in my experience, gratitude journals really work, but only if you truly put your heart into them.
So having given them their notebooks, I instructed my children to write down five things they are thankful for. The did so dutifully, if not happily, for the first time tonight. We will do this each night at prayer time and they will share their lists with us all. I have stipulated that each day’s list must be different and unique to that day. I will not accept “my family, my friends, my house, my toys, and dessert” every night because that takes no thought, encourages no real gratitude. My hope is that they will put their hearts into their journal entries and that hearing their siblings lists will open their eyes to even more blessings than they originally saw.
Gratitude is one of those virtues that seem to overflow into every part of life. Gratitude brings us closer to God. It fills us with peace and makes our lives truly joyful. Gratitude really does make us healthier, in mind and body, and even more importantly, in our souls. A negative attitude may be contagious and, in our case approaching critical status, but it is certainly never incurable and for that, I am grateful.