It was a blinding blizzard a little over six years ago, temperatures just above freezing with wind chill below zero, when I made my way to into the desert mountains of Utah on December 26th. I was there to see the boys in my therapy group at our wilderness treatment program.
Expecting grudged greetings and even anger, I was shocked to see smiling faces as the group huddled around the campfire singing songs. Our staff even seemed happy and all of them had just spent Christmas Day in brutal conditions.
Surely, I thought, my most spoiled boy would be sullen and slow to speak with me. After all, I was the one that had recommended to his parents that they leave him with us over the holidays to see if we could make a bigger break through with his entitlement issues.
When we sat down around our \”Therapy Fire\” I noticed a warmth about him, and he seemed genuinely grateful that I was there to visit him. Anyone could see that he was truly happy. What was I missing?
“Matt, why are you so happy? I know how cold it\’s been and I\’m sure you must have missed being with your family yesterday.” His reply was stunning coming from him, “I don\’t really know, but this was the best Christmas I\’ve ever had!”
Upon further questioning I found out that just the year before he had had his worst Christmases ever. His parents had done everything they could to make it a special one by giving him exactly what he wanted…brand new, top-of-the-line, downhill skis. But that wasn\’t enough. He wanted more so he fought with his parents and sister all day long.
Compare last year\’s experience to the quiet satisfaction found by receiving a surprise salami stick and crackers for Christmas dinner, and I had to wonder what the group had been drinking! In the end, it wasn\’t anything artificial, it was pure, undiluted, gratitude. Gratitude for under-appreciated family relationships and for a whole host of comforts and necessities he had taken for granted before.
Everything had been taken away from Matt while he was in the wilderness. He only had the clothes and gear we had issued to him. Now here he was, feeling gratitude for Salami. Matt didn’t have anything, but had chalked up one of the most memorable and cherished Christmas’ of his life.
I hope your child or teen doesn\’t get everything he/she wants during the holidays and every day. I encourage you to show restraint in your purchases and instead give something of yourself. There are so many needs waiting to be filled in your extended family, neighborhood, workplace, church group, etc. Take your children along to experience the joys of giving much and receiving very little. Just don\’t tell them that it was my idea 😉
Happy Holidays to your family!