Mary and Emma returned from their mission trip to Peru late last night. The original plan was for a Saturday return, but the flight was canceled, rescheduled, then canceled again.
They boarded the plane in Lima on time for a midnight departure on Friday, but the pilot soon announced there would be a delay due to a broken windshield sensor. "Four hours later, we were allowed off the plane. We had had half a cup of water, no sleep and some stress," Candie, the team leader, wrote in an email.
I was delighted when Mary (who turned 16 while she was in Peru) messaged me over Facebook. "You must be tired," I wrote her when she told me what had happened. "I am tired, but learning to be content and give thanks in all circumstances."
And if that wasn't enough, she went on. "At least I am not working in a field on a mountaintop like some of the 7 year olds I've met."
"Hola, Mom!" Emma chimed in. "The weirdest things I have eaten are cow heart, guinea pig, and cactus fruit," she wrote, as if she were stating that grass is green and the sky is blue.
Messaging with my daughters yesterday took me back to my own mission trip to Belize in 1983. I was 17 and had never even been on a plane before. Primitive toilets, bathing in the river, fire ants, goat cheese, soldiers everywhere; I could go on and on. I have never forgotten the impact that it had on me. And I have never been so grateful as I was for the one warm shower I got to take during the two weeks I was there.
That is it with raising kids, isn't it? Gratitude. It's the secret sauce, the key, the thing that keeps them from being, well, brats. Keep them immersed in it by encouraging it when you can and enforcing it when you must. "He that is full loathes honey," Proverbs reminds us, "but to the hungry, every bitter thing is sweet."
Some kids keep it easier than others, I think; and all kids need it. But how do you instill, enforce, encourage it? There are lots of ways in this culture--lots of privileges to remove should you see a lack of gratitude creeping in. And whether it is to the inner city or half way around the world, letting kids see, touch, serve, work among those who have less...well, let's just say when they are thankful for the cow heart on their plates, or that they don't have to work in a field all day, gratitude is present.
I am so proud of those girls. Proud of their growth, flexibility and, yes, attitude of gratitude. They had it when they went; they came back with even more. And now that they are home, I can see it spilling out onto the whole family.
Welcome home, girls. We love you. We missed you. We're proud of you.
"...for I have learned that whatever state I am, to be content."
Emma (top) and Mary visiting orphans in Peru. Photos by Candie Sheppard. Visit her blog to read more about the trip (link below)