Lessons in Gratitude

As a mom, I always try to strike a balance with my kids. From toys to treats, video game time to reading, I try to temper their blessings with a fair amount of chores or responsibility. I want them to see that life in our family is a team effort to which we all contribute. I don’t want to be a Nazi mom, but at the same time, I also don’t want to raise a brood of lazy man-children with delusions of self-entitlement. Finding this balance is often difficult, because being the bad guy all the time wears thin. Despite my efforts, I feel like my boys still need real reminders about how blessed they are, and to not take things for granted.

Right about dinnertime last night, I heard a knock at our front door. Two boys, probably about thirteen years-old, were pushing a lawn mower from house to house through our neighborhood, and offered to mow our lawn for $10. What’s remarkable about this situation was that these young men were willing to work hard in the 107 degree heat, for less than what the average person spends on lunch. With only one mower, our yard could easily take a couple of hours to cut, but they were willing to do it anyway. Inspired by their efforts, my husband offered them $20, and let them use our mower as well, so they could do the job in half the time. Meanwhile, I set glasses of ice water on the porch for them and went back to making dinner.

Did they do the best job ever? Well, no. Did they more than earn their $20? Absolutely. As my husband paid them, he asked what could possibly motivate them to slog away in the 107 degree heat, because he wanted to praise their entrepreneurial efforts. I think we both were expecting some goal that would be typical of a 13 year-old boy, like a new video game or skateboard.

You know what their answer was?

School supplies.

Yep, these 13 year-old boys were mowing lawns in the crippling heat so that their family could buy school supplies. Upon hearing this, I think my boys learned a very valuable lesson. They saw kids having to work for things that they needed, not just for treats or play money. They saw that school supplies, something that seems as much of a given as school itself, are actually a real and often costly responsibility. Mostly, I think they got a reminder that they are blessed…one that didn’t come from their harping mother.

Can’t beat that with a stick.

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