This week many of us will take time out of our busy schedules to feel grateful for the many good things in our lives.
Soon afterwards, we will begin to think about how generous we want to be towards the people in our lives. These two virtues — gratitude and generosity — form a cycle of virtue that can attract love and happiness into our families, or can become an endless cycle of obligation, disappointment and resentment. It all depends on whether you focus on the value of the THING being given and received, or the value of the PERSON who is doing the giving or receiving.
When you focus on the thing — whether it is a pair of socks, a new car, a compliment, or simply a beautiful blue sky — then you can get caught up in all sorts of transactional considerations. How much do I really like it? How much did they spend? Can I return it? Am I allowed to accept it? Do I deserve it? What will they expect from me in return?
But when you focus on the person behind the gift — whether that is a spouse, a child, a friend, or even God — then the exchange becomes an invisible bond of connection between you. You perceive that person’s generosity, and your innate attraction to that virtue — not your appreciation for the gift — draws you closer together. In this way, gratitude generates the joy of a stronger relationship.
As you feel closer to others, you will desire to give something to them – not as repayment, but as an expression of your own love for them. And so you become less selfish and more generous yourself. And the cycle continues.
So here is an exercise for you to do during the holidays. When you receive something from someone else — whether it is a gift from under a tree, an invitation to a party, or even just a compliment — stop for just a moment. Before you say “thank you,” close your eyes and picture them handing you a light on the end of a string. You can do this in the blink of an eye if they are standing there, or hold the vision for several minutes if they aren’t. Feel the connection between you grow. Say “thank you” inside your head to the person you are visualizing, and then, if they are standing there, say “thank you” out loud – as though you really mean it.
Because you will.
Would you like to find more opportunities for your family to practice gratitude? Our Life Dice dinnertime game is a fun way to make gratitude a regular part of your conversations.
The idea is simple: There are two wooden dice. One has six questions, like “What did I learn today?” or “Whose Heart did I Cheer?” The second die is where the fun comes in. It provides six different ways to answer, from singing your answer to closing your eyes, to passing the question on to someone else.
Together, they add just enough silliness to make coming up with an answer a fun game rather than an obligation imposed by someone else.
They can even be used as ice breakers for groups of youth or adults. Finding the courage to share your true self is a challenge that never ends.
“I feel thankful because I am thankful” is one of the seven affirmation coins in our Adult Affirmation Comfort Coin collection. Rub them with your thumb while you repeat the affirmation, and it will help you stay calm, grateful and positive. You can even picture the people you are thankful for as you say the affirmation, and strengthen the bonds of love between you.