I was selected to be part of the launch team for Kristen Welch’s new book: Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World. The conversations taking place on Facebook between launch team members point to the obvious, that holidays have been consumerized and we live in a selfish culture. However, I don’t feel that entitlement equals spoiled. Entitlement means expectations without gratitude. One way I have tried to show my children gratitude is to help them understand that they are not the focus of everything, despite what their adolescent nature tells them.
Christmas is about gifts and giving. It is about decorating and preparing and expecting and hoping and waiting. It is about family and friends and church and tradition. It is all this and more. If we lose sight of the simple fact that CHRISTmas is not about us, it is about Jesus Christ, and if we choose to celebrate ourselves over HIM, then the meaning of the day is lost, and entitlement creeps in.
Like the Wise Men who came bearing gifts of frankincense, gold and myrrh, we give and receive gifts. Entitlement is not the cost of the gift, or the hope for a certain gift, it is the expectation of a gift that is received with little or no gratitude.
This week we took time to visit The Knights of Columbus Museum in New Haven to view the creches of Europe. We were fortunate to arrive just as a tour began and we were invited to participate. These creches are works of art, made from skilled hands, with reverence. The all depict the meaning of Christmas; the birth of the Christ child. As we walked through picking our favorites, Christmas came into focus. To be honest, as we drove to the museum there was some bickering among the three of us. When we left the museum, we had joy in our heart, the bickering was replaced by the realization that we are not the center of this day.
We cannot do it all. We cannot always give the perfect gift, or control the reaction of the gift recipient. We cannot always find the perfect tree or the perfect dress for a holiday party. We cannot always make our children behave perfectly or have a perfect picture for our Christmas card. We can’t always cook a perfect holiday meal or set a perfect table, but what we can do is stop, take a step back, slow down, and realize that we are not what this season of Advent is about. We are to prepare ourselves, our homes, and our families to celebrate the event that changed the world, but we are so tiny in comparison to Christmas. When we do this, we expose ourselves to the feelings of joy, empathy, compassion, awe, reverence, and wonder. When we allow ourselves to step back and put God first, we experience gratitude on the most basic level, for our lives, our salvation, and our eternity are all tied up in this birth. As for me and my family, we will follow The Lord, and in doing so, hopefully raise kids who are not entitled but instead grateful and inspired to do great things with the gifts, talents and treasures that have been bestowed upon them.