How to Make Sure Your Kids {& You} have the Best Job in the World

After they left, there was the laundry.

There was the laundry on the line and there was the wind and there was the clipping of each pin to the line,and it was like a staking.

How do you find your place and point in this world and what’s your real work in this world and how do you not miss it? The hens are pecking in the grass somewhere behind me, clucking low, looking, pecking, pecking.





I’m pinning towels to the line, trying to mark out a life. Up is down and down is up and prayer is the only compass that can orient a life. I reach for a clothespin.

How do you know that you are doing what you were made to do, that time isn’t eclipsing you, that you aren’t missing His real call on your life?

The hens cluck and peck and cluck, a refrain, a searching.

Sling the wicker basket up to the hip. Carry it pass the hens, across the lawn, up the stone steps. Carry it empty back to the house, looking for the filling.

Before they had left, before friends had packed up the tent and put out the backyard campfire and called it a weekend, friends we’ve known 18 years, who we’d sat in Bible studies with before there were any of the seven babies and their glorious adoption, before they left the annual backyard camping weekend, now in it’s 11th year, Sherri had sat across from me had said it.

Said that the kids were wild this year.

That the kids at her Daily Vacation Bible School this year had been wild and wild for the picking.

She said that every morning for the week of DVBS, she’d had to pick one of the kids in her class to be The Guide, the kid with the map, to get them from station to station throughout the morning. Then to pick another two kids in the group to be The Material Keeper, who got the materials out, who got the materials away. And someone needed to be The Pray-er — the child who offered up a prayer.

And I had smiled and nodded. “When I hand out jobs, I’ll say it, “And we’ll need a pray-er. Someone to pray for us in the midst.” Because the truth is that it’s always more than ora et labora, pray and work. No matter what the hands claim is the work, prayer is the work, and the only work that will outlast fire.

But do you know the job they all wanted?” I’m knitting and Sherri’s leaning forward, eyes smiling.

“I mean, what they kept waving their hands about for, what work they were begging me to pick them for?”

I’d looked up from the row of pearling and shook my head, waiting to know what work was worth the waving hands for.




“They all wanted the job of being The Thank-you-er.”

“The Thank you-er?” I pause, knitting needles in mid-motion.

She’s grinning. “The Thank-you-er. That was the job they all wanted everyday.


“Why The Thank-you-er?” My knitting needles hang, waiting.

Sherri leans back, leans into it. “Because when they thanked the woman who made the snack, when they said, “Thank you” to her — her whole face lit up and they loved making her smile and she loved making them smile.

And when they thanked the volunteers at the craft station, or the fellows who ran the games, same thing: They said thank-you and whoever they were thanking just beamed all this joy. You should have seen it.”

I can see it.

“I never would have guessed that that would be the work that everyone wanted.” Sherri shakes her head. “That more than anything, the children wanted to be the job of thanking.”

What had I just read?

“…a new study suggests that helping teens learn to count their blessings can actually play an important role in positive mental health. As gratitude increases, so do life satisfaction, happiness, positive attitudes, hope and even academic performance…. [A]mong those kids who say they feel grateful for a variety of things in their lives, [the researchers] found an association with critical life skills such as cooperation, a sense of purpose, creativity and persistence.”

It was like a knitting of everything together.

“Gratefulness allows us to understand what matters most to us and translate that to a broader goal,” offered the researcher who presented his findings at the American Psychological Association annual meeting this past weekend.

Students “who were among the most grateful gained 15 percent more of a sense of meaning in their lives, became 15 percent more satisfied with their lives overall and became 17 percent more happy and hopeful about their lives. That group also had a 13 percent drop in negative emotions and a 15 percent decrease in symptoms of depression.

You don’t have to be rich to feel grateful,” posited [the lead researcher]. “We’ve found poor kids are very appreciative…. I see Medicaid kids and children from wealthy homes, and I don’t see any greater or lesser sense of gratitude from one group or another. It’s fairly low in both groups,” he said. “Unfortunately, our society isn’t focused much on gratefulness; it’s become out of vogue to talk about it,” said Miller.

Our society isn’t focused much on gratefulness?
And I’m seeing all these kids wildly waving their hands to be picked for the work of thank-you-er. The needles are knitting it all together. If a life’s truly focused on God, how can gratefulness not be part of the picture?

Is gratefulness only out of vogue in our conversations when God is out of focus in our lives?

Do you only tire of giving thanks when you’re tired of the glory of God?

That’s what the article said:

Miller said he often asks kids what they’re grateful for. “When they can’t identify anything much [to be grateful for] at all, he sees it as a danger sign of increased risk of severe depression and suicide.

When we stop seeing reasons to give thanks, we stop thinking there are reasons to live.

When we don’t think there’s much to give thanks for, we don’t think there’s much to live for — because giving thanks to God is the purpose of our lives.

When we don’t focus on what we can thank God for, we can’t focus on living for God.

Giving thanks makes us want to take —
the next breath.

That’s what was asked of the researchers: “How can parents help instill a sense of gratitude in their children? Bono suggested parents start paying attention to their own sense of gratefulness and model it. “Talk about what you’re grateful for, and ask your kids what they appreciate,” he said…. “Talking about gratitude helps guide us all to the things that matter most,” he noted.

And I had nodded: Living gratitude guides us all to Who matters most.

I had set the knitting aside, everything weaving together right, and I had said it to Sherri.

“So the snack lady and the games floor volunteers and the storytellers, they had smiled and about turned inside out with happiness when they were thanked and the thank-you-er had followed suit — straight up joy all round.” Sherri grinned. And I had leaned forward, right into it:

“So — Do you think God responds similarly when we thank Him?

She had nodded, eyes lit with the wonder of that, how the thanking must make God smile, how the thank-you-er could feel His smile and doesn’t that turn the thank-you-er right inside out and turn everything right? What else could we say? We could only sit there in the spinning joy of it.

And that’s what I had remembered after the children were sleeping deep,  long after the friends had left, after the laundry and the pulled pork salad and the homemade ice cream.

After the shuttling to music lessons and the watering of the garden and the pulling of weeds and a dinner on enamelware plates on the front porch and a stack of picture books at twilight and that sprinkle of freckles across the bridge of her nose. After him.

With the heat of him laying close in the dark under that one thin cotton sheet, I had turned to the window, to the night and the moon and the wooden clothespins out there in blue light under stars.

And laying there at the end of the day, I could feel it — how the basket and everything felt full and perfect. How the place of the work is inconsequential because the purpose of the work is always the same.

In the Kingdom of God there is no job more prestigious than any other because we all have exactly the same job: to glorify God.

There was no waving of the hand there in the dark, but there was — how everything was waving excited: The work I want in this world is to be a thank-you-er — because is there anything more than exalting God in this world?

And it was there in the dark and I could feel Him close.

All the stars twinkling like a smile.



Related: 15 Ways to Raise More Grateful Kids
How to Really Make August Your Happiest Month Yet
Give thanks and enter the giveaway for a Nikon D90 camera

…. my happy work in this world, being a thank-you-er — more of His endless, One Thousand Gifts … thanks be to God for all of these blessings:

knitting by the campfire {#4183}

old friends that always seem new {#4184}

that gratitude may not be out of vogue, because God is in focus– from the NYTimes Bestsellers this week:
Screen shot 2012-08-06 at 10.05.27 AM

little girls and hens {#4185}

little girls and swings {#4186}

little girls and giggles too late in tents {#4187}

how all of our kids and theirs are growing up and we might all have the privilege of growing older together {#4188}

my “older” coming up this week and embracing the grace of more candles!{#4189}

cucumbers and zinnias and tomatoes all warm from the garden {#4190}

that wherever I am, doing whatever I’m doing — I get the crazy grace of the job of The Thank you-er! {#4191}

Join us? And happily change everything by keeping your own crazy list of One Thousand Gifts?

Please, jump in, make your life about giving thanks to God! — Just add the direct URL to your specific 1000 gift list post… and if you join us, we humbly ask that you please help us find each other in our refrain of thanks by sharing the community’s graphic within your post.

Give thanks to the Lord! His Love Endures Forever!

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