My 7-year-old daughter showed me the joy of a grateful heart.
It had been a stressful week. Everywhere I turned, people seemed to be begging for more of my time or money. I did what I could, often without a simple thank-you, which left me feeling used and unappreciated. What had happened to gratefulness and good manners? Had the words thank you disappeared from the English language?
I mulled over these thoughts as I drove home from church. My daughter, Anna, then 7, sat beside me, pretty as a picture in her flowered dress and patent leather shoes.
My heart ached with guilt as I studied her sweet profile. The last few days I had worked feverishly on projects, which often resulted in my being a disagreeable mother. More times than not, I sharply answered my daughter’s requests with sentences like “Just a minute,” “I’m busy,” and “Please, don’t bother me now.” Yet there she sat on this brilliant Sunday afternoon, holding no grudges.
How I wished I could be as merciful to the people I worked with each day. I resented those who treated me poorly, robbing me of my time and disregarding my expertise.
Anna seemed to sense my mood and remained quiet on the drive home. As we rolled into the driveway, she said, “Since Daddy is at work, we can just have our own private time, can’t we, Mama?”
I wasn’t sure what she meant, but it sounded good to me. “That will be great, Baby. You can help Mama fix lunch, and then we can have our own private time.” Through the course of preparing lunch, however, I forgot about her request. I lingered in my office, brooding over my hurt feelings like a spoiled brat.
Then Anna joined me and settled into the wingback chair beside my desk. She smoothed her dress and crossed her legs. Suddenly, I remembered the “private” time and wondered if this was an indication that it had begun.
“Mama,” she began, “I just want to tell you how good it is to have you and Daddy.” I straightened up and smiled her way. She didn’t wait for my response.
“You and Daddy do so much for me, Mama. You buy me clothes and give me food,” she said, her small hands folded in her lap. “You take me to a Christian school and buy toys for me. And . . . “ She patted the arms of the chair. “I have a nice chair like this to sit in.” I noticed her lips began quivering. “You just do so much for me, Mama.”
Then she bolted from the chair and flung herself into my arms. For a long while, we held onto each other, both of us crying softly. It felt as if my heart would burst.
“I just wanted to say thank you, Mama,” she said. “Thank you so much.”
I had to catch my breath. The emotions that welled up inside me were unspeakable. I felt joy that, even with all my pathetic blunders, I must have done something right as a mother. And I felt remorse, recalling the many times during the week I had ignored my child and her simple wishes. Instead I had focused on my unmet emotional needs.
But, perhaps more than anything, I was intensely grateful that God had already blessed me with the notable title, Anna’s Mother. I could not think of a single thing I would rather be.
Dayle Shockley is an author and writing instructor in Houston.