An Experimental Day

Guest post by:
Kara Hooten

“How do I instill contentment and gratitude in my children?” I asked myself. I was appalled at the discontentment, entitlement, and greed I was observing in my three young children. Only God can truly change anyone’s heart, but maybe there was something I could do to encourage my Little Ones towards greater gratitude. That was where the “Thankfulness Day” was born. I decided to create a day with less, with the intention of showing my children just how much they really had.

The next morning I was excited to tell my six, four, and two year old that it was going to be a silly day because we were going to play a game where we pretended to be poor. All the kids’ books and toys were put out of reach or hidden in a closet. One children’s bible was left out and one big ball. We talked about how some people might only have one book or toy. We talked about how thankful we were for how many books and toys we usually have. For breakfast we pretended that the mom and dad both had to work because the family was so poor, and so my eldest had to make breakfast (with supervision). We pretended we didn’t have dried fruit or milk to put in our oatmeal, so we ate it plain. When breakfast was done, it was time for the kids to clean up. Very quickly they expressed gratitude that they usually do not have to do most of the work. :)

356 million children live in extreme poverty worldwide
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I wanted our Thankfulness Day to benefit more than just us. I told the kids that I would pay them for the extra work they would be doing.  The money they earned we would donate to the local homeless ministry to help provide a holiday meal for those in need. My eldest was eager to work hard to earn money for the poor and even added all her own personal money to the fund. I told them that we would match them ten dollars for every dollar they earned. They earned money for doing laundry, making meals, and doing dishes.

We also watched a video about the Oregon trail to compare to our recent trip to Montana conveniently by car and with air conditioning.  I told them that when their grandparents were children, there was no internet. “Not even on their phones?” One child responded. I chuckled and talked about how there were not cell phones at that time.

At the start of the day, I showed the kids I had paper for us to write down all the things we could think of that we were thankful for. I helped us think about all the things we were using: pot, stove, spoon, oatmeal, etc. We made it to seventy things by the end of the day! My husband and kids helped us get to one hundred things by the next day.

The previous Sunday we had stayed home and watched our church’s service online. I came up with a “Sunday school lesson” on gratitude for the kids. It included a story of a granddaughter whose grandmother sacrificially made a special hand-sewn doll. The story had two ending options. One in which the granddaughter did not really take the time to appreciate the gift or show appreciation and the other ending in which she savored the gift and showed exuberant appreciation. The grandmother in the story keeps reminding me of God and how he creates such good gifts for us and how my response is more often like the granddaughter’s in the first ending of the story, lacking awareness and appreciation. We also read the story from Luke 17 where Jesus heals ten people sick with leprosy and only one comes back to thank Jesus. Those stories have encouraged my heart to want to be more thankful too. The Thankfulness day was a special day to remember how much we have and take a moment to slow down and be grateful for all God has given us. It's been a few months since we did our thankfulness day and it's still something we think about often. I think God was at work changing our hearts to be more thankful. <3

-Kara Hooten


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