This is a sign I saw for the first time in San Francisco on October 6, 2001: AMERICA - OPEN FOR BUSINESS. The graphic is an American flag with shopping bag handles on the top of it. The message, as I interpret it, is that when we really want to get out of the national depression that was caused by the World Trade Center tragedy just one month before, we do what any patriotic American really ought to do --- we go shopping. That’s where the term "retail therapy" comes from, isn’t it?
My concern is with the implied message that this is sending to our children. This approach is teaching them that happiness can be purchased. Feeling good depends on having the right new shoes, the watch that goes with the outfit, the latest hairstyle.
No wonder people have confused the concepts of "need" and "want." Everything they want is something that they "need." They need it to fit in, to be respected, to be in with the in crowd.
Kids are masterful at zeroing in on what they don’t have and what they think they have to get. Thanksgiving is a good time to challenge that line of thinking - to help them appreciate what they have rather than mourn what they are missing. Since parents have been on the planet much longer, you have a wider perspective than then children. This is a good time to share your wisdom with your little ones.
Every household chore is an opportunity to serve as a reminder of appreciation. While washing the dishes, focus on gratitude for the meal just eaten, the family members with whom we shared it, and the kitchen in which it was prepared. While making the bed, be grateful for the bed itself. Doing the laundry makes me think about having a selection of clothes to clean, as well as the family members who wear each item. Children will not necessarily see these connections; it is up to us to point them out.
We have a choice about how we look at our lives. I choose to focus on what I have, as opposed to what I want. When we think about what we have, we always have enough. When we think about what we want, we never have enough.