Every night just after saying prayers, I have Big Man take a moment to name simple things that he gives thanks for, things that make his heart happy. I think that cultivating an “attitude of gratitude” will serve him well as he grows, because though it’s no news flash, I think that too many things in society encourage children and adults alike to downplay what we do have. We’ve got to take care to protect ourselves from Want More Syndrome (a tip of the hat to the Wailers) that can eat us alive if we aren’t careful.
So, how cool was it for me to take my usual stroll down the library aisle and see that the lovely library elves had put Pat Mora’s Gracias/Thanks in my path. Finally, Big Man could see proof that other people also see giving thanks as an important practice and that his mom is not torturing him with some pointless ritual. Aside from the fact that it’s gorgeously-illustrated (not to mention bilingual), it’s one of the few spiritually-oriented books I’m aware of with a male child of color as the protagonist.
“For the ladybug that landed on my finger, a little red flying surprise, thanks.”
“For the worms that brought the big fish to tug on my line, thanks.”
Big Man already has a natural love of the Berenstain Bears and owns a number of their DVDs, including The Berenstain Bears Get the Gimmies which is a wonderful complement to Gracias/Thanks. Ditto for Can I Pray with My Eyes Open?.
In keeping with my promise to post more about our summer visit to NYC, here is a photo of Big Man and me that I like. It’s of us in front of the Big John Cathedral which I learned about through Me and Momma and Big John, a picture storybook illustrated by Mara Rockliff. It’s a beautiful book that, through the story of one family, tells of a apprentice program that put formerly-unemployed NYC residents to work by training them to be, primarily, stonemasons. The cathedral also had arts programs that trained children to weave and make ceramics; was home to a theatre and dance troupe and an artist-in-residence who is also the resident tightrope walker (for more on this see also “Manhattan’s Medieval Masterpiece” by Michele Lansberg featured in 1989 issue of Reader’s Digest and printed here). I had to indulge my inner art nerd by paying a visit. Since Big Man seems inclined toward architecture or engineering, I thought he’d enjoy seeing it too. And he did. Even though we’ve not visited the National Cathedral in D.C. or the Nasir al Mulk mosque I include those photos in the collage as a reminder of the architectural kinship that exists between some of the most majestic churches, mosques and synagogues, Big John included.