When I was in first grade, I received an Emergency! action figure from Santa for Christmas. It was my least favorite present that year and I was pretty vocal about it. I said things like, “What was Santa thinking?!” ”I didn’t ask for this!” and ”I don’t want this.” You have to realize that I loved Emergency. I watched it every week and when Kevin Tighe came on the screen, I said that I loved him, that I wanted to marry him, that he was my boyfriend.
My mom got really quiet after my tirade. She started acting sad. At the time, I still believed in Santa Claus, so I in no way attributed what I had said to Mom’s behavior. After about an hour, she sat me down and told me how ashamed she was by my ingratitude. I think she may have elaborated a bit by talking about children who didn’t get presents and about how Santa was always watching children and he would be very upset if I didn’t appreciate the gifts he had left me.
The point is, though, that all these years later, I still remember how badly I felt afterward. It was within the next year that I found out about Santa and I remembered the Emergency doll. I knew then that it was Mom that had given me the doll. It was her feelings that had been hurt. Nonetheless, I have remembered that lesson in gratitude my entire life.
I am not saying that I became a perfectly gracious child after that. There were more, definitely more, lessons needed, but that was the beginning of my realizing that life wasn’t about getting everything you want. It was the start of thinking that the givers of gifts have feelings. It was the first time I had figured out that there was such a thing as gracious receiving.