When our lives become stressed, frenetic, disconnected from other family members due to varied schedules, agendas, and individual pressures, and like a big race where the finish line is never quite in sight, it can sometimes feel like nothing is being accomplished —no goals are being met–and certainly not as a family.
For one family in Providence, R.I., where mom is a college professor and dad a software engineer who commutes more than two hours a day to his job in Boston, family time is usually at a premium. With two growing, active daughters who spend after-school hours engaged in music and sports, not to mention keeping up with homework for their rigorous academic schedules, and after making time for necessary household activities like cooking, cleaning, marketing, laundry and the like, finding downtime to talk and share is next to impossible. What’s more, when the family does get together, there is so much pressure and so little time to keep up with outside responsibilities that conversation is often cursory, and counting their many blessings, so to speak, isn’t even an afterthought.
Desiring a different way to communicate and acknowledge one another, the idea of a family Gratitude Box, where family members take a moment each night to write on a slip of paper what they were grateful for that day and deposit it in the box, was the answer. With no acknowledgment considered too small or insignificant, grateful thoughts run the gamut from “I’m grateful I passed my algebra test” to “I’m sure glad the girls had table set before I got home” to “I was happy when my sister said she would wait for me after school today.” The results have made a huge difference in everyone’s outlook, according to dad Justin.
More important, making a date to sit down together on Friday nights over a bowl of popcorn and share everyone’s gratitude slips from the previous week have added a new dimension to family life.
“The thoughts are always eye-opening and informative,” said mom Amy, “They remind us of what we have, how much we have in common, how we regard one another, what each contributes to the whole, and even that our individual differences are what make us a special family.”
In fact the family benefited so much from their Gratitude Box, they suggested it to their daughters’ teachers and coaches as a way to bring students and individual team members–who may not understand, accept or appreciate one another as well as they could–closer together.
When holidays and other special occasions rolled around, they made additional Gratitude Boxes (a brightly decorated shoe box will do) and gave them as gifts to friends and relatives, realizing it was a special way for people to connect and express how much they valued one another.
“Even the most simple acknowledgments add up to a whole new understanding–an appreciation for one another,” Amy said, vowing to keep their Gratitude Box going for years to come.