A few years ago, I started keeping track of things I was grateful for. I had read One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp, and as a result, I wanted to be more aware of the countless ways God was showing up in my daily life. So, I started a list, and I began noticing that God showed up in even the most mundane parts of my life. Tracking gifts became a way of “praying without ceasing,” like Paul encourages us to do in 1 Thessalonians. Not only that, but this practice of tracking gifts completely changed my perspective about my bad days: Even in the midst of challenging or downright awful circumstances, I was still noticing the small gifts of grace from the Lord, because I had made a habit of looking for them. Each Sunday morning, our Base Camp volunteer team gathers to prep for the service ahead. We go over the curriculum, talk through the schedule, and pray for the kids who will show up. Usually, we kick off the meeting with an ice-breaker question: What country in the world do you most want to visit? or If you were breakfast cereal, what would you be? ... that sort of thing. But I knew that our Base Camp curriculum focused on gratitude this month, so I wanted to find a way to help my volunteers connect with that idea each Sunday. I always feel like they will do a better job conveying curriculum to the kids in their group when they have a firm understanding of how it’s playing out in their own lives.
So, I decided that in November, we would start listing gifts. Before each service this month, I’ve asked the volunteers to share one thing they are grateful for. There are no other rules: It can be silly or serious, sappy or small. Just one thing. It’s been fun to hear everyone’s responses, but I didn’t know this practice would help me get to know my volunteers so well.
I’ve learned who lives with their parents and who lives with roommates, because they’re grateful for cheap rent or fun movie nights. I’ve learned who loves their job and who’s on the hunt for a new one. I’ve learned who got along well with their husband that week and who had to do a lot of traveling for work. I’ve learned who finally upgraded their cell phone and who got a new car.
It turns out, when you learn what someone is grateful for, you get a peek into their values and priorities and a better sense of what challenges and changes they’ve encountered that week.
So, when the conversation at your Thanksgiving table stalls this year, or when you are struggling to remember what you have in common with your aunt or cousin or parents, I’d challenge you with this: Ask them what they’re grateful for this year. You never know what you’ll discover.
Written by guest blogger Lindsey Cornett.