"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what
you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." Maya Angelou
Many years ago when we had seven children fourteen and under, we decided that we wanted our children and our family to be blessings to others—not burdens. We knew that bringing seven kids into situations can seem overwhelming to hosts. We wanted people to look forward to our family coming—not dread seeing our big thirteen passenger van pull in the drive-way! We decided that when we went to a get-together, as Christians, we should be energy-givers, not energy-zappers!
We knew that going to a family get together of any kind, but especially any with non-Christians, and trying to “show” people our Christianity by our standards wouldn’t work. Non-Christians do not care about your standards—they do not worry about what you are wearing, what you are not watching, and other outward signs that we often think are important (and they might be, but they seldom show our faith as much as we think they do). What non-Christians care about is how they are treated (which is what everybody cares about, really!).
We have taught our children since they were very young that other people matter—a lot. We have taught them biblical truths along these lines—do unto others as you want others to do unto you; put others first; when you see an opportunity to do good to others, do it; prefer others before yourselves (our first born’s first memory verse when he was two—“‘fer others a’for self!”). We taught them to always think of those around them.
We taught them to think of those beside you (your friends and siblings); those ahead of you (grandparents and others who have gone before you); and those behind you (those who are watching you). And we taught them that we are here to serve God and others—not ourselves. And this begins in our home with our immediate family—and then extends to other relatives, friends, church, the community, then the world.
What does this have to do with Thanksgiving get togethers? Everything! We can prepare our children to think of others and serve whenever they can every time they leave the house (including family get togethers) or we can just assume they are kids and should just be kids—and do what kids do. Yes, kids can be selfish—but not just because they are kids. Kids are selfish because they are humans. As parents, we are entrusted with these children in order to train them in the ways of the Lord—which includes training them in selflessness rather than selfishness.
Some might feel that putting expectations on children to have certain behavior, exhibit selflessness, serve others, etc. for grandparents and others is too heavy of a burden—but if our children cannot learn to serve those closest to them (including siblings and parents), how will they ever be able to serve others (especially spouses and their children in the future)?
Tomorrow I will give you a list of ways that we taught our children to serve others, put others before themselves, exhibit good manners and character, and more—at holiday get togethers—and at home!