My older brothers were brick and stone masons. I remember them leaving home early in the morning in order to be on the job site by first light. The workday could be long and hot in the Alabama sun. They always made sure they had the necessary tools to do the job and do it well.
As a child I was always fascinated by a tool called a level. No batteries, no sound, no digital readout, just a metal tool about a yard long with three small, glass cylinders containing water and a bubble. If you tilted the level the slightest to the left or right the bubble inside the glass would move past the marked center point. It seemed too simple to be of much value, but my brothers would never leave for work without it.
Much of the stone and brickwork they laid was on the large education buildings and dormitories at the University of Alabama. I remember being amazed when I saw the work they had done. “How in the world do you put so many bricks together, make them fit and keep everything straight?” I asked. Their response was simple, “With a level.”
As I examined the mortar and bricks perfectly laid in beautiful symmetry, I realized the biggest projects often begin with the use of a simple tool.
The “level” in our life is thankfulness. Through many years of building a home, a family, a ministry, and a life with natural and eternal significance, I have never found a more important tool than thankfulness. Without it, the things we build are uneven, poorly constructed, and subject to crashing down around us. Every person needs to know this. Everyone benefits from developing a thankful heart.
The Word of God is clear with over 200 references to thanks, thankfulness, and thanksgiving in the Old and New Testament. God never intended for thanksgiving to be just a national holiday celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November. He intended for it to be a lifestyle—a level for building a happy and successful life. Psalm 100:4-5 says, “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise. Be thankful unto Him and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations.”
A few of the fruits of thankfulness are peace, contentment, joy, happiness, confidence, and expectation of a bright future. These are a few of the fruits of unthankfulness: complaining, murmuring, lust, envy, jealousy, and little hope for the future.
So how do you teach your children and others to be thankful? The first, and probably the most difficult aspect, is to model thankfulness in your own life. We talk a lot about the impact of peer pressure on our children, but I firmly believe parents also have tremendous impact on their children. No one can help or hurt your child like you can. Become a “thankful example” and you will position your child to see life with expectancy. You will teach life-building principles that will always bring success.
The second way to teach your children and others to be thankful is to expose him or her to those in this world who are less fortunate. I actively sought ways to educate our sons concerning the privileges they had versus the privilege’s others did not have. Every Christmas we rang the bell for the Salvation Army, collecting financial aid for those in need. For ten years, they worked alongside me doing Backyard Bible Clubs in the government projects in our area. Every Christmas we sponsored a family who needed special help through our church or some charitable organization. When they were older, Larry and I sent them on mission trips to other countries to work and serve the underprivileged. We wanted them to understand that there would always be someone out there struggling with life to a greater degree than they were.
When my life gets a little crooked and off balance, I retreat to thankfulness. Instead of magnifying the things that are wrong in my life, I focus on the things that are right. My whole attitude changes.
Thankfulness is the level that keeps our life in balance. Like my brothers, don’t leave home without it!