Teaching Gracious Receiving

Allison French

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.
-Melody Beattie

As December quickly approaches, I, along with many find myself many times anticipating it highly. Yes, it’s bright and twinkly and engaging and memorable, but beyond that, in the deepest places of our hearts, we know it’s more. Whispering the story as many different ways as we can, recounting the gifts of the magi, hoping our children will marvel at host of angels in the skies, walking through Advent reminders, attending petting zoos and melodious reenactments, we busy ourselves all in hopes that somehow our little ones’ tender hearts and innocent minds will absorb the gift of the season.

And then, we welcome the celebrations, ones with gatherings and gifts, unwrapping and noise. Here, amidst the squeals there’s a chance for a life long lesson, amidst the excitement, an opportunity to empower our children with the habit of gratitude.

Growing up, my mother impressed five specific steps to receiving a gift. Even now, I find them so deeply ingrained in me, I chuckle as write them out because they’re what I’ve always known. I remember us practicing at home, each day, every day up until birthdays and holidays. I even remember being quizzed on the way to events. She always knew how to prepare us. We’d role play, concentrating on our tone sometimes, facial expressions other times. Taken out of context, it could seem silly, overdone, forced perhaps. But she knew what she was doing. It was like Aristotle once said,

Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.

And so, there we would be training in her secrets, rehearsing alongside her, walking through the steps she taught. And there she was training us, imparting the secrets to not simply impressive manners, but lovingly nurturing a habit of gracious receiving.

1. Card - Open the card first. Remark on the cover, the words written inside, pause to thank the giver in advance.

2. Gift - Open the gift, slowly, next. Don’t tear the paper open, but carefully unwrap it.

3. Thanks - Turn and look the giver in the eyes, make sure to say their name as you thank them loudly and clearly.

4. Hug - While you are still thanking them, stand up and go over to them. Wrap your arms around them tightly and squeeze them in a sincere hug.

5. Comment - While you are there next to them, express a specific quality about the gift that you appreciate. Explain why you’re excited about it or how much you have been hoping for it. Even if it’s a gift you weren’t anticipating, comment on the color, the softness, the practicality of it.

Simple as her five steps seemed to be, it was in the pause of the activity, the act of this habit that she was teaching us the importance of thankfulness, the reward of expressed gratitude. And as a mother now, I realize the gift she herself was giving us.

It’s a grand, beautiful, enormous responsibility.

As a mother of four children under five, Allison French makes her home in Kansas City. Together with her best friend and hubby, Chris, their noisy little (big) family thrives on soaking up sweetness in the simple. Photography and writing are two loves that have grounded her in gratitude through these motherhood years as she began to more deeply see the fleeting nature of the things that make each of our lives so uniquely beautiful. She's passionate about the significance of the “in between moments of life”… the creamed up coffee, steam floating softly into the untouched morning, the fresh mornings’ first rays singing of the the purest sense of new beginning, barefoot muddy toes in the summer’s warmth and in the crispest of winters, cozy fireplace blazes under piled worn blankets next to the little ones leaning in, freshly cut flowers, dew still lingering, stacks and stacks of richly vibrant children’s books, the finger-running tousle through the locks you nuzzle in, and long, lingering breakfasts together. | allisoncorrin.com/personal | @allisoncorrin