Those we are closest to are often the ones we encourage and praise the least. Our families do more for us than anyone else we know and yet how often do we stop to consider what life would be like without them? If we did, perhaps we would begin to see the need to express our gratitude to those within our own home.
Our parents, siblings, spouse and children, more than anyone else, deserve to receive our expressions of gratitude. For one thing, they are family, and as such, according to the standards for which God created family, there is nothing but death that can separate you from them. No matter what happens, they will always be your God-given family and there is something about the way God made family that does not allow for permanent separation. No matter how long or for what reason they may be absent from you, there is still a place in their heart for you. When you need them they will be there, and for that we should be unceasingly grateful. Because they are always with us, they see us as we really are. Not all smoothed over and with a pleasant mask on for appearances sake, as we do for friends, but our real self. When we are moody or grumpy, they know it. When we are irritated or annoyed, they hear it. When we are excited or overjoyed, they are the ones who listen and get excited for us. No matter what the situation we are in, our families are there for us. Doesn't that deserve our heartfelt gratitude? Then too, think about all the things our families do for us. There's food on the table, the house is clean, you can get help for whatever you're doing, when you come home you're welcome and there's an atmosphere of goodwill; of 'home', that you could never make all by yourself. All these are possible because of what your family has done. Don't you think we have a lot to be grateful for, to our families?
So why is it that we so rarely show gratitude to those of our own home? It's been a long, hard day. The lawn was mown, the garden weeded, the gate hinge tightened so it wouldn't rub on the ground, someone re-organized the garage for the third time this summer, and who knows what else got done. But did you notice that despite all the helter-skelter of the day, lunch was nearly on time, that your brother lowered the mowing deck before he traded off with you (because he knew you had probably forgotten since last summer), that Dad charged the electric drill battery last night so that it would be ready for work on the gate, and that the little girls brought cold water to the thirsty workers? More often than not, these little things went by unnoticed because we were all so pressingly preoccupied with our own task that we didn't stop long enough to consider what others were doing to make our work easier. But if we were to stop and consider for a moment what part others had to do in that job we would realize how much there is to be grateful for. In a family, more than anywhere else, life has a way of becoming routine. The bills get paid, the food prepared, the house cleaned, the yard work done, the appointments met, and so forth. And because it always gets done we just take these everyday things for granted. They are just mundane, hum-drum events. However, if they didn't get done we would be in a hard way! With the routine normality of home, our lives, for the most part, run smoothly from one day to the next. Nothing major falls apart because our family is all at work keeping it together. When suddenly something goes wrong we tend to complain. But if it "went wrong", that means that someone used to be taking care of it. So this new inconvenience ought to remind us to be thankful to those who took care of it for so long. After all, aren't you glad it isn't a mess all the time? But why wait for something bad to happen before realizing how good life was? Why not stop right now, look at the pleasant, smoothly running things of our lives and be grateful to those who are working so diligently to keep it so, our own families!
So then, how can we begin to solve this lack of gratitude to the people who are so dear to us and who do so much for us? How can gratitude become part of our everyday lives? Firstly, I would like to suggest that a mere "thank you" is not enough. Oh yes, there is a time to just say "thanks" and go on. Many times that's all there's time or need for and we shouldn't stop doing it. But how do you feel when you are sent to get a last minute item for the dinner table and upon your return Mom takes it with a rather distracted "thank you dear" and rushes on to get the children seated? Do you feel really appreciated? What if, when she takes the item, she looks you in the eye, smiles, and says, "Oh, thank you. You're such a help!" You know she's grateful, don't you? It just took her a moment. She didn't say much more than in the first episode. But she took the time to acknowledge you personally and she told you why she was glad for your work. That kind of "thank you" is the kind we must develop if we are to show real gratitude to our families. It's not enough to know they did something nice for you that made your life easier; unless you tell them, you are not truly grateful. Just giving someone a quick smile is another way of expressing the gratefulness of your heart. There are also times when it just isn't the right moment to express your full gratitude when someone serves you, or something might be done for you while you're not around. Going to someone afterwards and telling them how grateful you are for what they did tells them as much, or even more, than if you had been able to do it when it happened. At other times it just doesn't work to personally thank someone, even when they live right in the house. At these times you can write a little note on a piece of paper, telling them what they did and why you are grateful they did it and put it on their dresser. They will know that you are truly grateful by the time you took to write it. Something else to consider when thinking about what to praise in others, is character. We usually say "thank you" for the actions of others, but what about their cheerful attitude, their diligence in getting a job done, their faithfulness in their responsibilities, their patience in dealing with the little ones. All these things contribute to a happy home and smooth running family, for which we ought to be grateful. There are many, many ways in which to express true, heartfelt gratitude all through our day. Let's start today!
If gratitude is to become a way of life it must start right here in our own homes. Our families do more for us than anyone else ever could. They are always there, accepting us and doing innumerable things for us. We need to slow down and consider all the ways in which they are a blessing to us, not taking for granted the everyday routine but realizing why it is that everything runs smoothly. And we must be sure to tell them how special they are to us and why. They need our acceptance just as much as we need theirs. May we begin today to cultivate grateful ways at home!