It’s interesting how we can forget the details of 1 month ago, but there is a permanent space carved out in our brains for conversations that happened years ago.
While coloring with my three year old today, my mind took me back to my kindergarten classroom, where I was playing with blocks beside some other snot-nosed kids. There was a boy close by who was coloring the finishing touches on his picture of a skunk. I noticed his greasy hair and partially-tied tennis shoes.
I continued playing with the other kids. A few minutes later, I looked up to find a green and yellow skunk in my face. Startled, I looked back at my blocks and tried to act like he wasn’t there.
“It’s for you,” he said.
I scrunched my nose. “Um, no thanks,” I replied. Who would color a picture of a skunk? And why would you paint it those colors? And what makes you think I want it?
What a little snob. I’m not sure what inspired my reaction; perhaps it was the person giving the gift (boy cooties..yuck!), or maybe I truly expected the picture to smell skunk-ish (strangely possible). Regardless, I hadn’t been taught to act this way.
My teacher must have witnessed the encounter. “Kristin, that’s not nice. You should always be thankful when someone gives you something.”
My face instantly felt hot. As one who thrived on teacher approval, the last thing I wanted was for her to think bad of me. I wanted to justify my words by reminding her that I said “no thank you”, but I was afraid I would start crying.
Regretting my decision, I accepted the picture.
I’m pretty sure he forgot about the incident by the time we started our next activity, but I walked around in a pit of embarrassment and humility the rest of the day.
In my immaturity, I focused on “what” people could give me or do for me instead of looking at the intentions behind their giving or doing. I guess that’s only normal as a young child. If that’s the case, then gratitude must be a learned trait, something we develop over time. It’s an attitude that allows us to see the potential in something that looks bad or insignificant on the surface. Gratitude changes how we perceive gifts, but more importantly, the people who give them. Gratitude changes my attitude toward giving. When I’m thankful for the smallest things, I am more likely to give to others with no strings attached.
Ultimately, gratitude reminds me that I came into this world with nothing; everything I have is a gift, for “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17
Today my son hung his picture of a lion on the fridge, but I can’t help but think about a skunk when I look at it.
As I reflect on my countless blessings, I’ll add to the list the boy, the skunk, and the teacher who taught me a lesson about being grateful for the things that don’t necessarily fit my preferences. I hope to always focus on the people behind the gifts, and not the gifts themselves.
What are you thankful for today?