New Year, New You: Gratitude
HAPPY NEW YEAR! And Happy Friendsday Wednesday!!
We have lots of great Friendsday posts headed your way this month--all in the theme of New Year, New You (after all, "...never stop growing" is one of the founding principles of AskAuntKatie.com ...to love Jesus unreservedly...to live life authentically...to celebrate the giftedness of others...to never stop growing...to Choose All! But I'll be honest, I like you just the way you are.
I'm so pleased to share our first Friendsday Wednesday of 2018 with you!! It's another Cantor Confessional from one of our favorites--Ms. T. She shares one of her favorite parts of the Mass & challenges us to adopt an Attitude of Gratitude this New Year with some pretty excellent, pint-sized role models!
I'm thankful for you,
Thank you to all of you who read Ask Aunt Katie and those who contacted me after my last/first posting. Being asked to contribute was an honor, especially since I kinda consider myself a rebel Catholic. I totally would have been the lookout in the early church that was having mass below the ground…. I also may have been playing in the dirt during the homily. But anyway, let me get to the topic at hand.
I must confess my second favorite part of mass is when they call the little kids up for the children’s bulletin. (My favorite part is receiving the Eucharist… duh… that’s kinda obvi, right?!) I also must admit that when my pastor goes out of town I secretly hope that the substitute priest is very old and isn’t quite mobile enough to get the bulletins out to the little kids…. So selfishly… I can do it! (LOVE, LOVE, LOVE IT!) It is hands down the most precious thing that happens in mass. First off, it takes them forever to get up there because for them it is a trek. Secondly, the priest has to bend down to get on their level. Lastly, and this one is a perk for me as cantor, I get to see their little faces--and they give the best reactions!
When kids receive the bulletin, we as a community are giving them a host of opportunities. Of course, we are giving them the opportunity to color; I mean, who doesn’t love that. On a more realistic and serious note, we are giving them an opportunity to embrace a Catholic education. We are giving them an opportunity for literacy. Hopefully, we are giving them an opportunity for quality time with a family member who will sit with them and discuss their bulletin (if you just felt a tinge of guilt while reading that, it’s okay… you have next weekend). The first opportunity that the children get, however, is the opportunity to share gratitude.
A few years ago when I was attending mass where a visiting priest came to minister to us regarding the poor who go without food, he made sure to withhold the bulletin from each child until that child said an audible “Thank you.” Ever since that day, I watch the children to see which little ones say thank you. At first, I was curious. Then, and I’m being brutally honest here, I was judgmental (hey! I’m not perfect! Sometimes I’m a tax collector… rarely but sometimes a Pharisee…. Shame, shame self). Finally, as I matured, I started to see the many little faces of gratitude.
Gratitude's Many Little Faces
First, there is the obvious and loud thank you. I say loud because at my church there is a group of small boys with the voices of men. Y’all! It’s hilarious! First, the three boys always come to mass dressed alike. I used to think this was tacky but now, it’s absolutely precious. I also realize that buy 1 get 1 free is a blessing no mother should ever pass up. Secondly, they range from 2 to 3 feet tall and have these huge, booming voices that can be heard across church. Miraculously, the only time these little gentlemen are heard is when they come pick up the children’s bulletin. They politely grab their bulletin in a single file line from tallest to smallest and the youngest says the loudest Thank You. For the longest, this captivated me, initially because of the sheer entertainment value but eventually for their discipline. They had obviously been trained on how to behave. Their parents had provided them with life skills. I was impressed.
Then, I began to look at the other children and realized that almost all of them had great gratitude for their moment with the “persona Christe”. I know that as a child that pat on the head at communion time meant the world to me.
I was probably more like the little girls that come up and say thank you with a little shrimpy voice through doe eyes and long eyelashes. Later on in life we learn that it is called flirting and realize how inappropriate it is but for now, we are precious.
There’s also the kid who walks up in complete awe and doesn’t have the words….. Literally, they don’t have the words. They are still working on the basics; give ‘em a break! However, their lack of language skills does not overshadow their thankfulness. Their faces say it all. They walk slowly and stare at everything in amazement, including the bulletin they are about to eat.
There is another non-verbal thank you kids give that they pick up from adults. We all have seen the humble bow to the teacher. It is reminiscent of a Shou-lin master or even better, the master of all cowboys, John Wayne. The head tilt from one man to another is a sign of great respect in the community of strong but silent types.
Jumping for joy is a form of gratitude that we often forget to recognize as such. Sharing our excitement with everyone is a way of showing how we appreciate the gift that has been given.
We all smile to ourselves and our neighbors when a little one gets a bulletin and runs full speed back to mom and dad in the back pew, arriving out of breath to show their parents the loot acquired. Even if they fall on their way back there, they are still so happy to hug and share the life-win, bruises and all.
After reflecting on this for months (or even years), it got me thinking even deeper about the gift of gratitude. We are creatures that often function on feeling appreciated. We put a high value on how much the people we love recognize our efforts for them. Could it be that the gratefulness we seek is right before our eyes? Are we missing our loved ones expressions of happiness? Are we not appreciating being appreciated? Are we not perceiving someone’s love for us? Are we failing to receive something that is already being given?
Little kids have limited means of communication; however, when they reach for the children’s bulletin once a week, they express gratitude almost instantly and consistently. If gratefulness is built into us instinctively, or at the very least initially, then why do we find receiving gratitude so difficult? Maybe we should start looking for the signs - the crazy yell, the nod, the look of awe, and the run of ecstaticness (it's a word.) The signs of gratitude are everywhere if we just start looking for them. It’s as simple as the children’s bulletin.
Shana Sampia is the band director and reigning Teacher of the Year at Carencro Middle School in Carencro, LA. She has got jokes, is musically obsessed, and strives to be the favorite aunt of her plethora of nieces and nephews. When asked why she loves cantoring on the weekends, she readily admits, “I need double the church--I’m a mess.”