The Gift of Gratitude

A few days before the start of school this past August, I purchased a book bag for my 12-year-old daughter, Jessie. As I checked out, I told the cashier, “Well, I’m done with last year’s Christmas shopping.” He gave me a funny look and agreed I was a bit behind.

I neglected to tell the cashier we didn’t mail Christmas cards last year for the first time in our marriage. Life was hectic prior to December with the family’s move to a different state and my wife working long hours at her new job. Then a lump appeared near my wife’s left ear that required a biopsy and surgery. We never sent Christmas cards or bought Jessie a new book bag, which she had requested for Christmas. She managed fine for the rest of the school year using her tattered old one.

As another holiday season approaches, I wouldn’t be disappointed to have a lot of “routine” days, before, during, and after Thanksgiving and Christmas. One thing my family doesn’t need to stress about during Black Friday or the days leading up to Christmas is my gift. Jessie, unknowingly, gave me the best present this summer.

In July, Jessie and I took a 12-day trip, with stops in the two cities where we previously lived. Jessie had a blast attending her former dance school’s camp during the first week. We also had visits with friends and former neighbors in both cities. On the business side, we had two author events at libraries and a four-hour book signing at the mall. Did we set attendance records at the libraries? No. Did we sell out of books? Plenty left. Did we cherish the moments? Most definitely, even when Jessie accidentally kicked the power cord to the projector out of the electrical socket during the second library talk causing a brief delay.

Since Jessie wrote the book’s foreword, we do the book signings together and she autographs the books, too. Prior to publication, I wanted to find a “heavy hitter,” someone with a big following, to write the foreword. However, Jessie really wanted the job. One day I came home and my persistent girl had written the prettiest 150 words for the foreword. I looked no further.

Book signings with my daughter are special, no matter how many books we sell. We spend time talking with each other. Jessie enjoys collecting the money and giving change. But though we enjoyed the daddy-daughter book tour, that wasn’t the gift.

On the way home, we stopped at my “writer’s paradise” on St. Simons Island. Since 2011, I’ve attended the Southeastern Writers Association’s annual workshop each June. We had to drive out of the way to get there, but I wanted to show Jessie my favorite place. Her excitement showed through all the photos she took and the enthusiasm in her voice as she video-called her mom to share the picturesque sights.

Jessie commented, “I can see why you like this place so much.” However, her enthusiasm for my favorite writing spot wasn’t the gift I cherished most.

A few days after we arrived home, I sat at my computer and Jessie plopped in the nearby La-Z-Boy with a pen and her journal. She had fallen behind with her daily entries in which she captures the highlights of each day.

Without a prompt, Jessie looked at me and said, “Thank you.”

“For what?” I asked.

“For everything!”

I smiled and told her to thank her momma, too.

“I will.”

You’ve had a pretty good summer, haven’t you?” I asked with a smile.

“I’ve had a pretty good life,” she responded.

Those six words were the gift I cherished. Wow! I hope Jessie wrote that sentence in her journal. She had recognized her blessings, many more than a book bag could ever hold. Her grateful heart made the best gift not only for me, but for her as well.

Another holiday season is near. Will it be easy to find gifts for loved ones? Probably not. But I’m going to remember that gratitude is a wonderful gift to give ourselves and others. And it’s a gift we can share daily.

We’ll also be sure to send out Christmas cards, as reconnecting with family and friends we don’t see as often as we’d like and remembering the happy times we shared together, is one of the best parts of the holiday season.

Until next month, remember to cherish the moments.

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