The Gratitude Jar: A Children’s Homily

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I have three children all grown up and as old as your parents! Zach is a filmmaker who lives in Brooklyn. Colleen works for Meals on Wheels America and lives in Washington, D.C., our family’s hometown. And my “baby boy” Jacob (he hates me calling me that!) is father to four, works for Publix Grocery Stores and lives in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

This year I won’t get to see them all in person and that’s okay. It’s good they have their own homes and traditions and we will definitely talk on Thanksgiving Day!

But I want to share with you, my younger Emmanuel friends, a tradition we had at my house when these three were growing up and we lived in Del Ray.

Anxious and excited and annoying — yes, annoying — they would grumble and growl about how long it was taking to prepare the Thanksgiving feast — that thankfully their father did because I am a terrible cook!! So my job, besides trying to get them to help was to keep them occupied. And this is what I came up with —

The Gratitude Jar!

It started with a gratitude list. But here’s the challenge, they had to come up ONE HUNDRED things to be grateful for! (That should eat up most of the day, I thought.)

Colleen, my middle child took the assignment very studiously. Hovering over her paper with her number two pencil, she listed the names of virtually everyone she knew. An extreme extrovert — this was a bazillion people.

Jacob, the youngest and into Nintento 64 and Mario, with a crayon scribbled video game characters, the players on his baseball team, and his favorite food: bagels with cream cheese, lox and red onions.

Zach, the eldest, exceeded expectations coming up with more than a hundred in the blink of an eye. Clever and snarky, he wrote this:

“I am grateful for 101 Dalmations, and of course, Pongo and Perdy, their parents too. So, that by my calculations that makes 103!” He put his pencil down to go off and read his comic books.

They talk about this tradition to this day — groaning with laughter. But here’s the thing. They all slowed down, gathered their thoughts — whatever they happened to be — and considered how grateful they were to God and to the universe that year.

And we can too. 2020 has been kind of crazy, right, with the virus and all. Doing school at home, wearing masks, keeping our distance so we can keep everyone safe.

But I just bet, if you put your minds to it, you can come up with more than a few, maybe ten or twenty, maybe a hundred, maybe a million things to be grateful for!

Then take your list and cut your paper into little strips with each thing you are thankful written on it. Put them in a jar.

And then every Sunday on the day we pray together, take one out and remember to thank God for that wonderful thing, that wonderful place, that wonderful person that you are so grateful for!

Bring your list to zoom coffee hour, if you can!

And if I don’t get to see you before Turkey Day, have a very, very happy Thanksgiving!


Note: “Pax vobiscum” is Latin for “Peace be with you.”😊

Spirituality The Episcopal Church

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The Rev. Joani Peacock, Editor for Emmanuel Voices: A Parish Blog

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