“Mama, thank you for being so generous with me today,” he exclaimed. “You played with me and let me watch a show!”
His little outburst put a smile on my face. For whatever reason he’s been in an especially grateful mood lately. Just about every night I hear at dinner, “Mama, thank you for making this for me!”
While his gratitude is definitely a cute story my husband and I will probably retell someday, it has also allowed me to realize how closely love, gratitude and generosity are linked. When my son is grateful for the extra love I put into his meals, or for taking time I’d rather spend cleaning to play another game with him, it makes me want to be even more generous with him in the future. I want to find more ways to shower him with my love.
I also see this in my relationship with my husband. A few weeks ago we brought home our third baby, a little girl. As any new parent knows, those first few days and weeks with a newborn can be trying, not only in the lack of sleep, but in the shift of focus that occurs from the spouses on each other to the new little life that depends on them for everything. This time around it was just as true as ever. However, what was different for Adam and I is that we found each other trying to outdo one another in generosity. We allowed each other to take longer naps, we each took turns taking the older kids out on errands even when it would be easier to leave them at home. We brought home each other’s favorite treats and in general did everything in a spirit of loving service.
But, it didn’t stop there. We recognized the generosity we were displaying and acknowledged it and thanked one another for it. Our hearts were filled with gratitude, we very palpably felt the love we had for one another, which only made us want to be even more generous. Our generosity and gratitude fueled one another, allowing our love to overflow, to bubble over. Those first couple of weeks were a beautiful moment in our marriage: here we were with a new creation of our love, a new human being who you would think would steal all the love we had left and yet we still had more love to give, more room for it to grow.
I wish I could say this is how our relationship always is, but I admit in my poorer moments the opposite happens. When I feel there is no gratitude for my love and generosity I become resentful even to the point of being tempted to hold back my love. It is a miserable way to live. While it is hard to be generous in love in these situations, it is precisely these moments that stretch us, calling us to love unconditionally, unwaveringly, without counting the cost.
But for now I’m relishing the love and gratitude in my little family. I’m savoring the little moments with my son and thanking my husband for all the little ways he’s been loving me during the past month. My hope is by keeping these moments at the forefront of my mind I can work to cultivate a culture of love, generosity and gratitude within my marriage and family. The more thankful we become, the more generous we will want to be, the greater our love will grow.
Photo: Laura Wills Photography