Teaching Children Thankfulness and Honor to Veterans
The mayor of the small town in which our church meets expressed it best when he stood at the event and, with deep emotion, said, “I got out of the service 41 years ago, and no one has ever done what was done here tonight for me!” He broke down in tears as he spoke.
It was Veterans Day, a number of years ago, when my views changed radically on how we honor, or should honor, those who have served our country. Though my husband is a veteran, and we taught our children to be thankful, in my heart that night was embedded the importance of parents teaching their children to honor and show thankfulness to veterans for their service to our country.
Let me ask you a question: Is it possible we have not done enough to show thankfulness and honor to those who have fought on our behalf, to obtain the freedoms which we take so for granted? This event I was privileged to be a part of, many years ago, made me give this some serious thought. Let me tell you the story of that night.
True Thankfulness Is Very Rare
What did we DO that would cause such an emotional response???
Well, I can tell you that our church hosted a Dinner. And that we invited veterans in the area, and a guest of their choice, to be our honored guests.
I could describe for you the food that was served. That there was a delicious, catered dinner served. But, it was nothing fancy, just very tasty down-home food. There was honor and thankfulness expressed to the veterans through words and music, and there was genuine thankfulness shown.
Maybe I need to paint the picture for you, though, for you to get an idea of what happened that night.
About 20 young men and women from our church, all dressed very nicely, looking very classy, dressed in black and white (the young women in skirts and white blouses, the young men in white shirts and ties) served the catered meal to the veterans and their guests.
Young People Showing Respect and Honor
All the veterans and their guests, along with some of our church people, were seated at 9 beautiful tables, adorned with roses and candles, and each set with a white tablecloth. The young people ate later, but with church people and servers, there were about 100 people in all, in attendance.
Each table was served by one young man and one young woman. These young people were in their teens and twenties. They were eager workers, showing great honor and respect to the veterans and their guests. How many times have you seen young people dressed up very nicely, acting in a dignified, respectful manner to their elders? Unfortunately, it might be too rare a sight. I think it made quite an impression on the veterans and their guests.
Ways to Get Young People Excited to Serve
The girls who served, all lovely young ladies, bright-eyed and cheerful, were given the task of bringing from home whatever they wanted to use to set “their” table.
A couple of observations on my part. Now, I have to admit that I have been accused in the past of seeing budding romance where there was none, but, I think, young men and ladies who were serving at that event were just a little excited about being paired up, and excited to know who they would be paired up with, even if it was for serving at a church dinner.
How Do You Get to Know a Person’s Character?
Let me go off-topic here for just a second, to tell you my favorite books for building character in children! Please don’t miss my message: Build Godly character, if you do nothing else in your family! The old books from the 1800’s that have been reprinted, listed here, cannot be compared to for the Godly character represented and taught, in captivating stories that will hold your child’s attention. Your child will be thinking about these characters, and the character lessons learned, long after the reading time is finished. These also make excellent Christmas presents! Look for a post coming soon on Christmas Gift Book Recommendations!
These are the books we used, and my favorites: A Child’s Book of Character (for young children), Tiger and Tom & The King’s Daughter (for middle school age), Wisdom and The Millers (young children to middle school), All of the Isabella Alden books (author’s pen name was Pansy–my favorites are Ester Reid–kindle version below, but, I have to admit I don’t like when they update the illustration on the cover, but, oh, well:/ –and Tip Lewis and His Lamp–these are great read-alouds! age 8 to high school and older), Elsie Dinsmore series (age 8-high school). Many more. Proverbs for Parenting for discipline and correction (for use for all ages).
I must also explain that in our church, at that time, young men and women didn’t date. They practiced courtship. The subject of courtship vs. dating and how that played out in our church, is another subject for another time! Very interesting, though.
But, the ways that the young people got to know one another, interacted with people of the opposite sex, learned how to talk to one another and became comfortable with one another–and most importantly, had the opportunity to evaluate one another’s character–were as families in homes, when one family had another over for dinner, and as the church had social events, and, by serving together in various capacities, as opportunities arose in our church. Serving together was one of the best ways for young men and women to be together and get to know one another’s character, because serving together with someone tells you a lot about them!
So, there was a lot of excitement prior to the event that night, with much discussion back and forth about what they would be wearing, the girls effort to find just the right long skirt, just the right blouse, how each girl had decided her hair would be worn, etc. Now, besides all that discussion, each girl had the fun of making her table beautiful, in whatever way she wanted. I think it might be my favorite thing to do, setting a beautiful table to bless my guests, so I completely get it!
Encouraging Young People to a Heart of Service
They were encouraged to have a heart of service, and thankfulness, and encouraged to have as their motivation to really bless these veterans and their guests! The girls did a wonderful job. From home, they brought beautiful china or dishes, glassware, silverware and cloth napkins, which they carefully set on “their” table prior to the dinner.
And There Was Music
Whenever music is needed in our church, the families of the church provide it. Musical talent has always been a real gift from the Lord and abounded in our church. We are very blessed. At the time of that event, several family music groups were part of our church, who traveled around, playing stringed instruments and singing, mostly Blue Grass music. Singing that night (all from our church) were a male quartet, made up of 4 young men, who called themselves, “Rising Harmony,” The Kingery Family, who shared a patriotic tribute, and the Knudtson Family’s stringed symphony that provided a classical concert before and during the meal.The audience was very appreciative!
What Happens When Thankfulness is Shown
Finally, 3 members of our church shared, straight from their hearts, words of thankfulness to those who had faithfully served our country. A most appropriate message was shared by one of our elders, who gave a little history lesson along with a little sermon, as he wove the gospel into the message and implored each person in attendance to get to know God.
He made the connection for them between our Constitution and freedoms, and God, whose precepts under-gird all of that, and what they fought to defend. (We don’t know, but we prayed that those who attended that night many years ago, and didn’t know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, followed his suggestion to open the Bible which was part of the gift each veteran received. We prayed they would read it, and find out Who Christ is and how to be saved.) I can most assuredly tell you that those who planned that event planned it with the utmost attention to detail, and that fervent prayer covered the event from start to finish.
But I don’t think that any ONE element of the evening,
or any description of the plans or the people,
could really encompass or describe what was done by the Lord
at that event,
in answer to those prayers.
Or could possibly describe the Spirit present or the response from those who attended.
That is why I don’t think that we’ve done enough to honor and show thankfulness to those who have served. We haven’t communicated our gratitude well enough.
The response was too amazing.
The depth of emotion, the gratefulness, the appreciation people gave to ME–and I didn’t really DO ANYTHING! I was only representing our church, as I went to the door to shake hands with people, before they slipped out the door.
Their Thankfulness Amazed Me
But, it amazed me. I never expected it.
I rushed to the door, sitting at the far end of the room, not wanting any of those I saw heading towards the exit, to leave without one last “thank you.” I just wanted to personally say, “Thank you for serving,” to the veterans who had come that evening.
As I reached out my hand, I looked each veteran in the eye, with a firm gaze, and said, “Thank you for coming,” and “Thank you for serving.”
No one Has Ever Thanked Me
They began to open up. Over and over I heard, “No one’s ever thanked me. At least not like this. Not genuine gratefulness from everyone like we had tonight.” Some shared that the young people expressing thankfulness really touched them. Others mentioned the excellent music. But, most of all, everyone felt the genuine spirit of thankfulness.
They know the amount of sacrifice that has been made
to obtain what we enjoy daily–and just accept as normal–our freedoms.
The grand finale of the night expressed the patriotism and thankfulness in the heart of every last one of us, as we stood and lifted the roof off in song:
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!”
P.S. Want to raise respectful, grateful, obedient kids who love the LORD? Here’s my Video Course, “Raising Godly Kids”! Take it in a weekend, reap the rewards for a lifetime.
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