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More Than Just Turkey
This Thanksgiving holiday, teach kids what it means to be truly grateful.

Mmmm ... that turkey smells good," exclaimed my son, Nathan. "I love turkey."

"Really, what's your favourite? White meat or dark?" I asked.

"Both!" he replied. My sentiments exactly. There's something special about Thanksgiving turkey. But Thanksgiving is more than great food. It comes around once a year to remind us of all the things we take for granted the other 364 days. It also gives me the opportunity to teach my boys to be thankful for God's blessings. Perhaps you've had conversations like this in your home:

"Mom, can I get an iPod?"

"No, Nathan, you already have an MP3 player."

"But Mom, it's a baby one! Everyone has an iPod!"

These days, our children have so much. Toys, gadgets, sports teams and play places—it's amazing what occupies their attention.

My children hate when I say, "Back when I was young ...”

"Mom, that's ancient history," Nathan responds. "You guys didn't have anything!"

He's right. When I was his age, we couldn't afford a colour television and only received a limited number of channels. I had an AM/FM portable radio and a record player for my favourite 45s. In the nice weather I played outside. When it rained, I read books and played with toys that didn't light up, make noise or move by remote control. We explored the rocks on the shore of Lake Ontario, climbed trees and built forts out of blankets and lawnchairs. We used our imaginations, creating magical places to visit again and again.

Of course we wanted the latest doll and the latest fashions, but we seldom got what we asked for. That's where things get a bit out of whack for some of today's children. My husband and I often say "no" to our children, but many of our neighbours have difficulty with that little word. It can make for tough conversations with our boys. We can't give them everything they want just because the other kids have it. So I'm looking for ways to teach them to be thankful.

Last year we were on our way home from a Rotary Christmas party. Eight-year-old Nathan was unhappy with his gift from Santa and was voicing his disappointment. His whining was getting on my last nerve!

At the last moment I told my husband, "Pull over at The Caring Place, Ed." I took Nathan into the main hall where 30 mattresses were lined up for homeless guests settling in for a fitful night's rest. The lights were dim, and Nathan stood with his eyes filling with tears for the lesson he was learning and the embarrassment he felt. I took him by the hand and led him over to Joe.

"Joe is staying at our shelter tonight. Nathan. He doesn't have a home. He used to, but he lost everything, right Joe?" I asked.

"Yeah, I let some stupid choices ruin my life. But I've got enough. I'm thankful for my friends here who help me stay warm and fed," Joe told him, sensing my reason for being there.

As we left in the car, Nathan sat in absolute silence. Nathan is a good boy, but like all of us (parents included!), he needs to learn how to be content with what he has and not be guided by the selfish desires of his heart. The Bible says, "Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you' " (Hebrews 13:5).

Many struggle to pay mortgages on houses that are beyond their means. They drive two cars and think they need all the latest toys and gadgets. No wonder children get the greedy gimmies! I think it's time that we concentrated more on storing up treasures in Heaven. Our children must learn from our actions, not just our words.

Major Kathie Chiu is corps officer and executive director of the Caring Place Ministries, Mountain View Community church, Maple Ridge, British Columbia.

Originally published in the Salvationist, October 2007.




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