“Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgiving, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.” -William Arthur Ward
One of my most amazing camp moments happened on a beautiful Shabbat afternoon. On this particular Saturday, I was leading a shiur (lesson) for our younger campers where we went on a short hike to one of our upper meadows that overlooks camp. Once we got to the top of the meadow, I asked the campers to find a quiet spot not too far away but far enough away so that they could just be by themselves. Once there, I challenged them to focus in on all their different senses – what did they hear, see, smell, and feel? I asked them all to take in these observations and come up with prayers about things they appreciated. After several minutes, I called everyone back together to reflect on what they noticed during their mini solo experience and gave them an opportunity to share their prayers with the group. After several campers shared some nice observations and prayers with the us, I was feeling pretty satisfied that the kids had really taken something away from this exercise. But then something unexpected happened that totally blew me away. The last camper to offer up a reflection on the solo was a boy from our youngest cabin group. He told us all that during his solo he had written a song about all the wonderful things he noticed and that he was going to share it with us right then and there. And then he did. The boy sang us his prayer song. I can’t remember the tune or the words that he sang that afternoon but what I do remember is that it was simply beautiful and I was so grateful to be a part of and share in that moment.
Gratitude is an incredibly important aspect of living a healthy and fulfilling life. At camp we help children practice this skill on many levels – saying thank you after being served food in the dining hall, appreciating the different campers that make up their cabin group, pointing out all the natural beauty of our campsite during the activity day, taking part in prayer services, and even creating your own prayers. Being grateful and expressing what we are thankful for really elevates everything in our lives and makes what would otherwise be ordinary extraordinary.
With Thanksgiving fast approaching, I welcome you to give thought and attention to articulating what you are thankful for on a daily basis and ask your children to do the same. Make your own “family gratitude challenge” and see how this simple practice enriches your life and turns fairly mundane things into blessings.