Someone recently asked me what I do to show intentional gratitude in my life. A question that should’ve been simple was somehow difficult for me to answer. I’ve always considered myself a grateful person. I grew up in a happy home with wonderful parents and siblings. God has blessed me with a life that I’m proud of, full of wonderful memories. I’m married to my best friend, and we have three incredible children together. My life is full of things to be grateful for, yet I couldn’t answer the question.
I am grateful, but do I show it? Do I intentionally look for ways to show my family how thankful I am for my role in their lives? As I thought about different ways to express thankfulness, I immediately thought of my children. I pictured all the ways they show gratitude every single day. Memory upon memory rushed through my mind of all the simple ways they demonstrate appreciation. I see it in their words, in their character, and in their actions. Every day they show thankfulness in the most beautiful ways. Sometimes they complain, they are children after all, but when it really counts, they shine.
Both of our sons have Duchenne muscular dystrophy. They need help with simple tasks that most of us take for granted. I help them get up, get dressed, and do things that most kids their age don’t even have to think about. When my oldest son goes to the bathroom, he literally has to sit there and wait for me to come help him stand up after he’s done. A lot of boys his age would complain about needing their mom to pull up their pants. Some kids would mutter under their breath out of embarrassment or bitterness, but not him. He never complains or grumbles; he simply thanks me. Every single time I help him up, I hear “thank you, mama,” as I leave the bathroom.
His tenth birthday recently passed, and due to the quarantine, we had a fairly simple day. I made a nice steak dinner, per his request. We had cake, watched movies, played board games, and we all played his new Nintendo games together. It was a nice day, but of course that night I wondered if it was enough. I, like a lot of moms, am very hard on myself. I wondered if I did enough to show my love. Did I make him feel special enough? Later that night, I tucked him into bed and as I turned to leave the room, he stopped me. “Mom, thank you for everything you did for me today,” he said, leaving me awestruck.
My eight-year-old son also has Duchenne. He is starting to struggle with walking and getting up. It’s been a hard transition for him, but somehow, he is one of the happiest kids you’ll ever meet. He shows gratitude with such ease. He has the most empathetic heart in the world. If I hurt myself, he rushes to my side almost in tears just to see if I’m okay. He is also the most caring brother. If you compliment him, he will start to tell you about how wonderful one of his siblings is too. It’s just breathtaking to witness his selflessness sometimes.
Every day my children are thoughtful, loving, and kind when others need it most. I’ve learned that gratitude isn’t just about saying thank you or feeling blessed, it’s about putting others before ourselves. It’s about showing love towards the ones we are thankful to have in our lives.
Our fifteen-year-old dog died this past weekend, and my husband and I have been grieving hard for our little companion. He was blind, deaf, and had stopped eating, so we knew his time on earth was coming to an end. The kids knew that too, and handled it very well. We tried to comfort them in their grief, but they were more concerned about us.
When we got home from the vet, all three of our children flooded around us for hugs. Our rambunctious four-year-old daughter told us not to worry because he was in heaven now and that we could get another dog. Our oldest son set tissues by our bed for us and hugged us about a dozen times. Then our eight-year-old took our breath away when he reminded us that, “In Heaven, Yogi can see and hear again.”
One of my favorite quotes reminds me to focus on gratitude and makes me want to live every day to the fullest. It was Robert Brault who wrote, “Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” I think this describes gratitude perfectly. It’s not about grand gestures or constant words of affirmation. Showing gratitude is really just about the little things. It’s about the moments that stand out at the end of the day. It’s not just about what we say to each other, but how we say it. Gratitude is not only a state of feeling thankful for what we have; it’s also about reflecting it for all to see.
Next time I’m asked how I show gratitude to those around me, I will have my answer ready. I will say that I simply follow the example of my children. I make an effort every day to show love and kindness with my words and actions. I enjoy the little things knowing that someday they will be big memories in my mind. Every day is a gift, and I’m determined to intentionally live with that thought in mind, just like my children do.