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By Abe Villarreal

Last Sunday, during Sunday School, the four-year-olds in the room were asked what they were thankful for during this special time of family and festivities. They each thought long and hard before giving their answers, and most of them expressed thankfulness for far more than friends and family.

I often think of how sayings like “friends and family” or “thoughts and prayers” have become throwaway phrases. What we want to say to each other does more for ourselves than to those for who intend it. This isn’t true for four-year-olds.

When you ask a toddler a serious question, you expect a silly answer. But if you stop and think about it, what a four-year-old tells you is silly to you and serious to him. So when I asked a group of toddlers what they were thankful for this year, they had some serious responses.

One kid said inventions. After I chuckled, I listened. He drew a complex diagram on construction paper. I saw wildly shaped tubes and widgets of all sizes. The kid told me that it was a pancake maker, kind of like the one Pee-Wee Herman had in his Big Adventure movie. His explanation was dramatic and exciting. At that moment, I was thankful for imagination and creativity.

Another kid illustrated what he wanted to give thanks about by drawing a barely understandable spaceship. On board were people and animals. To me, it looked like lines of different colors going in a thousand directions. To him, it was an image of family and friends, all together, headed on a mission. I thought about how thankful I’ve been in my life to have people on board when I needed them.

The other Sunday School kids shared their gratitude for pets, cars, breakfast, and things so out-of-this-world I began to wonder if they knew the meaning of appreciation.

While they played with toys and made a mess of everything around them, I realized it was me, I was the guy that didn’t know as much about thankfulness as they did. Sure, I say please and thank you when I remember to or when I really want to communicate to someone that I care. What I don’t do is think of the non-conventional things in my life, big and small, all of which I should be thankful for daily.

I, too, should be thankful for inventions and spaceships. Many have sacrificed their time and talents to advance our society and to make us the nation of progress we are today.

And as I think of what makes our country great this Thanksgiving season, I am reminded of how many around me have yet to benefit from that greatness. We are all a product of our circumstance, and some of us got the short end of the stick.

With that in mind, I think we should all march forward with the enthusiasm, energy, and hopefulness of a four-year-old. It was an age in our lives we were taught to say please and thank you to everyone for everything. We were educated that sharing was essential and that we should say sorry even when we didn’t mean to do wrong.

I’m thankful for the four-year-olds in my life who have reminded me of those valuable lessons. I hope there are toddlers in your life to tell you that there is nothing too crazy for which you should not give thanks.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Abe Villarreal writes about life and culture in southern New Mexico. He can be reached at abevillarreal@hotmail.com.

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