A mom has a way to teach daughter gratitude

CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL

As parents, we want our children to be grateful for all the blessings in their lives. We tell them they are lucky, that other kids are not so fortunate, but we fear they aren’t listening. In her story “Adolescent Awakening,” in our book about the ways our moms have helped and supported us, Tasha Mitchell describes her mom’s smart strategy for getting the message of gratitude across. She writes:

Growing up, I wanted to be just like my mom. She was kind and compassionate. People always seemed to feel comfortable in her presence. For years, she was a volunteer in our community. I loved going to the local nursing home with her to help while she taught the residents a ceramics class. Their eyes lit up when Mama walked through the door. The ladies, their lips stained crimson, would gossip and snicker as they painted their pottery. I looked forward to those days. Until I hit my preteen years. Suddenly, I was too caught up in my adolescent world to worry about helping others. On one particular summer day, when I was 12, Mama came into my room and told me to get up, get dressed and meet her at the car.

I had planned to spend the day at the lake with friends. Why did she have to ruin everything? Eventually, I made my way outside. The sun was stifling. I imagined the cool, crisp lake water relieving my sweltering skin. Irritated, I climbed into the car and slammed the door shut. We sat in silence. I was too upset to make conversation.

“Tasha, would you like to know where we are going?” Mama asked calmly.

“I guess,” I muttered under my breath.

“Sweetheart, we are going to volunteer at a children’s shelter today. I have been there before and I think it would benefit you to visit,” she explained.

I felt a knot slowly form in my stomach. How was I supposed to help there?

When we reached the shelter, I was rather surprised. It was a spacious white Victorian home. As we approached the large front porch, I noticed a porch swing and several rocking chairs. Wind chimes played a soothing tune while hanging ferns welcomed us. Maybe this wasn’t going to be so bad.

Mama rang the doorbell. As we stood waiting, my hands began to sweat. I wasn’t sure if it was the summer heat or the anticipation of what I was about to encounter. Moments later, the heavy oak door flew open and we were greeted by a plump woman with fiery red hair and sapphire eyes. She led us to the front room where all of the children were playing. Toys were spread out across the floor. I noticed a baby whose body was scarred with iron marks. I was told it was because she wouldn’t stop crying. I cringed at the thought. The majority of the children had noticeable physical scars such as dark bruises, deep scratches and blistering burns. Others hid their emotional wounds.

As I took in my surroundings, I felt a gentle tug on my shirt. I looked down to see a little girl with brown eyes looking up at me.

“Hi. I’m Ashley. You wanna play dolls with me?” she asked, her cherub face beaming.

I looked over at Mama for reinforcement. She smiled and nodded.

I turned back toward the young girl and whispered: “Sure. I would love to play dolls.”

Her tiny hand reached up and grabbed mine, as if to comfort me. And we walked toward the dollhouse.

My mom taught me a valuable lesson that summer. I returned to the shelter with her several times. During those visits, some of the children shared their troubled pasts with me in great detail and I learned to be grateful for all that I had. Today, as I strive to instill values and morals in my own child, I reflect back to that experience. It was a profound time in my young life that I will never forget.

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