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November 2019 Family Ministries By Kathy E. Smith

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Words to Live By

If the only prayer you ever say is “Thank you”, that will be enough. - Meister Eckart, medieval Christian theologian

Simple Gratitude Practices at Home

We don’t know if Meister Eckart actually said these words.  But we do know that folks who have developed a sense of gratitude are generally happier, less anxious, more empathetic, and more resilient.  Here are some simple gratitude practices to try.  Start with one  – perhaps lighting a chalice at mealtime, or writing a note together – and see what works for you and your family.  Bonus: these spiritual practices also help build Unitarian Universalist family identity!

Ideas for Mealtime: Add a moment of grace at the beginning of family meals. Go around the table naming one thing each person is grateful for.  Light a chalice.  Hold hands. Share a moment of silence.  Invite each person to tell a story about the thing they are grateful for.  Have a reading, saying, or prayer that you use to begin each meal.  Buy or create a small book of poems, prayers, or readings and have family members take turns choosing.

Ideas for Bedtime:  End your day with a meditation or reading about beauty, love, joy, or gratitude.  If you regularly read to a child, add stories about these things to the rotation.  Create a routine with your partner, spouse, or child to share stories about your days.  Ask “What went well today?” “Who did something kind?” “What did you do that helped you feel happy?”  With a child, try the UU Children’s Prayer. Hold up your hand and fold a finger down as you name one thing that made you happy today, one thing you are grateful for, one thing that you are sorry for, something you can do tomorrow to make it better, and someone you want to send love to.  Or try the prayer suggested by Sarah Rudell Beach at leftbrainbuddha.com – Help (something you need help with), Thanks (something you’re grateful for), Wow! (something that is amazing or wonderful). 

Ideas for Sharing Gratitude:  Start your workday by sending a “thank you” email to a colleague or co-worker, or to someone who volunteers at church.  Keep a supply of thank you cards and stamps. Take fifteen minutes at the end of each week to write an appreciative note to someone in your life.  Encourage your child to sign the card with you, or include a drawing or note of their own.  Cultivate the habit of saying thank you to family members for everyday things. 

None of these ideas are new or particularly earth-shattering.  But it is amazing how simple, everyday reminders can bring more gratitude into your family’s life.