For even though you appear to have nothing,
The world beams out of your hand.
As for me? The ingrate!
I have all possessions in the world,
But it is I, not you with demands.
From a very young age, my mother taught us a tradition of the Arabs. The Arabs, – and I’m talking about the very traditional ones with rich history and wisdom of the ancients, not the modern media hystericism’s stereotypes inexperienced people have come to believe – were never ingrates. Being people from nomadic desert areas, they were an environmentalists delight, respecting the land and water, they were a humanists friend as no ethic or moral was left unturned, they were philosophers muses as they could relate life issues so enchantingly it would silence the staunchest of opponents and they were the scientists assistant, their arts and sciences taking them to the peak of unified experiences across the world.
They understood the blessings of whatever it is they had, be it a plentiful harvest of fruits for the season or a single goat that they drank milk from. The tradition my mother taught me was never to leave bread on the floor or allow any piece of food to be on the floor for that matter. But it went one step further, we were to pick it up, kiss it and put it on our forehead and that would show God we were utterly appreciative of what we had and we’d never look down on the tiniest and most taken for granted of things. That action made the food magically ok in our little minds, we’d eat it. Of course I am going to get many of you conjuring images of germs and bacteria, that is not the point. The point is forging gratitude into a child’s utter being and letting it run course through their veins.
We grew up never forgetting this and we have passed it on to our children.
All of my five children have this wonderful trait of gratitude and empathy with those less fortunate but one in particular is moved by it. When you ask all seven years of him what his aspirations are, he’s quick to quip in his partly Australian, partly American, somewhat European accent with strangely Turkish-European-Mongol-Philipino looks, warm dark eyes that he wants to open a burger shop and he’s somehow convinced his older siblings to forget their previous aspirations and to join him, his ultimate aim was to feed the homeless.
For the last few weeks though it seems to have amplified. He has been bringing his own pocket money wherever we go and takes it out and gives it all to destitute people wherever he sees them. He empties his whole little velcro wallet into their hands. When I ask him why, he says “It’s ok, I have more at home and can get more later but they have nothing”. Broke my big alpha male heart!
Sometimes if he forgets his wallet, he asks of us to give him some money, always offering to pay us back. Not that we need his money of course but to see that he is that conscious of the act and how it’s intention should be, is inspiring.
The latest of his actions had his mother crying in the middle of a super market. She looked behind her to try and find him as she noticed he wasn’t near her after entering the store. Finally he came walking through the doors crying profusely like he was in pain. My wife was shocked and thought someone had hit him or he fell over and asked him why he was crying. His reply was, ” I feel so bad for the homeless man outside, why are there so many homeless people?”
This is a seven year old who has been taught to kiss bread and put it on his forehead, ask yourself, how do you teach kids gratitude? Prattle your tongue as you may, you have to let them feel it in their bones.
Always let them see and talk to the less fortunate so they never learn to forget that they are humans like them.
As my teacher would say, ‘The world is still in spin and we never know where we may end up.’