Dish Rag Soup

Dish Rag Soup

A Family Recipe – By Michal Lloyd

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”

John F. Kennedy

My family has many tall tales, but one of my favorites is how my great-grandmother could make a fantastic meal from anything, even a dish rag. She was a woman of action and her gratitude was expressed in pie and homemade Chow-chow. The moral of the story is that the measure of a good cook is not what they make out of the finest ingredients but how gratitude for even humble ingredients and generosity makes the best soup. 

Gratitude is a very buzzy subject these days. There is a lot of talk about how gratitude makes us happier. Recent research indicates that it could even make us more generous. Numerous studies encourage us to express gratitude not just to warm another’s heart but to enrich our own lives.

But how do you teach gratitude to your child? Have you ever walked into your kid’s room and insisted they should be grateful for all they have? Words like, “I don’t know why you are so glum, you have so much. Go outside! It will make you feel better,” as you throw open the curtains letting in the sunshine. Your child recoils like a hissing vampire. 

We struggle when encouraging our kids to be grateful. Lecturing a child can sound judgmental. It can also sound Pollyanna and unaware. Teenagers, especially, are hypocrisy hunters, able to sniff out when we don’t practice what we preach. 

My great-grandmother’s love language was food, which she expressed as pie, side dishes, and roasted meats. When our larder is full, everyone is capable of cooking a feast, but when the dust remains in the pantry, like during the Depression and the Dust Bowl, a real cook shows their bona fides. So I ask myself, Do I model gratitude for my children?

As John F. Kennedy said, it is not what you say but what you do that resonates most with our children. Life’s actions are the lesson they will remember when we accept the world as it is, when we cut a cashier some slack, or don’t rage at some minor slight. 

Gratitude is a present tense activity. Great grandma Agnes made pie crust by feel-grabbing handfuls of flour mixed with goose fat to end up with the flakiest crusts. She rejoiced in the gifts she had and shared them with her children like a living cornucopia. She used what she had, which is what we do when we are grateful for not what we have in the future, but what we have right now. It is expressing gratitude in every action we take. 

Grateful teens are more likely than their less grateful peers to be happy and less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol or have behaviors problems at school.1 For ideas on how to foster gratitude in yours and your child’s life, visit the Prevention Action Alliance.

  1. America Psychological Association (2012). Growing up Grateful Gives Teens Multiple Mental Health Benefits, New Research Shows.