Unbeknownst to the students, this trip was funded by a large donation to hwcYouth so we could do things we wouldn’t otherwise be able to do. As such, we decided not to charge the students anything for this trip. No bus cost. No food expense. No CFS charge. This donation was used in this instance so the cost was nothing to the students.
At the end of the trip, I was thinking about this gift and I didn’t want the students to take it for granted (and I wanted to inform them that it was indeed a gift!). I don’t want to further develop or fuel the entitlement these students already (generally) feel toward life. I also wanted to teach them gratitude… or at the very least, express some gratitude. While on the bus ride home, I tried to think of a creative way to communicate this sentiment and something hit me as we entered the church parking lot.
When the bus stopped and the lights came on, I had the students sit back down because I needed to tell them a couple of things. Once they settled back down, I told the brief story of Jesus healing the 10 lepers (Luke 17:11-19). Once they were healed they all ran away with great joy. But one turned around, came back to the healer (Jesus), and thanked him. One. Then I told the students that we had received a sizeable donation to do activities like we had just done and we used some of that money for this trip. That was why we didn’t charge them a dime for the excursion.
“It’s important in life,” I said, “to acknowledge those gifts that you receive, whether free or not, and express gratitude for them.”
Then I left the challenge in their lap. I told them that each of them should think of a way that would show their gratitude in whatever way they feel appropriate. Then I dismissed them (after telling them to clean up the bus!). I waited at the front of the bus while each student filed past me. I intentionally didn’t thank them for coming, I wanted them to be thankful.
Do you know how many students said thank you to me?
Out of 37 students and after sharing a compelling story about Jesus, do you want to know how many?
Eight students conjured a statement of gratitude that cost them nothing for a trip that was freely provided. It’s kind of sad.
Our current culture can be so ungrateful, even in spite of lavish gifts. I’m still withholding some judgment to see if any students express gratitude in any creative ways that take time to pull off (NOTE: Not one student, in the year and a half since this event happened, has expressed any other form of gratitude).
We’ve still got a long way to go in retraining this culture to be grateful instead of entitled.
I have hope, though. I have hope that it is possible. I’m not trying to be critical here, I’m merely trying to identify an issue that I perceive to be noticeably deficient in the emerging generation of students in our current culture. Again, I’m very hopeful that parents, pastors, teachers, coaches, mentors, and others help to identify and foster gratitude not only in students, but also in ourselves!
Photo courtesy of: FreeImages.com/Daniel G