Adapted from “Raising a Grateful Child” by Dr. Rich Melheim.
“Example is not the main thing in life. It is the only thing.”
I grew up in a home where thanksgiving and thanks-living were core—not only to what we did but also to who we were.
Every meal at our table started with “Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest” and ended with “O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good and his mercies endureth forever.” My sisters and I didn’t need a lecture, lesson, or worksheet on gratitude. Every meal was a living lesson.
We lived in a little railroad town where the homeless, drifters, and vagabonds filtered through every spring and fall on their way to somewhere and often on their way to nowhere. These travelers had our little house pegged as a place for a free meal and some kindness.
From May to October, there were constant knocks at the door, sometimes multiple times a week. Mom would open to the hungry face, then send our unexpected—yet expected—guest around to the back step for a hot plate of home-cooked food, a smile, and a listening ear. Mother often muttered something about “entertaining angels unaware” after visitors left. My sisters and I didn’t need a lecture, lesson, or a worksheet on stewardship. Every back-door meal was a living lesson.
On Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, we entertained a houseful of college students from faraway and others who were alone on these special days. My parents’ attitude was “you can always throw more water in the soup” and “where there’s love, there’s room.” We grew up serving these guests every holy day before we ourselves would eat. We spent countless festivals carting borrowed card tables and chairs from church to fill our house with hospitality, laughter, and love.
To my parents, there was no caring without sharing. If you were blessed, you were blessed to be a blessing. Again, we didn’t need a lecture, lesson, or worksheet on hospitality while growing up. Every holiday was a holy day and an opportunity for a living lesson.
Dr. Rich Melheim is a pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. This story was published in full in the 2015 edition of Givingmagazine, produced by the Ecumenical Stewardship Center and distributed by the Church of the Brethren. Order complimentary copies of this and past issues at www.brethren.org/givingmag .