Ring doorbells - it seems like just about everybody has one now. If you’re not sure what exactly a Ring doorbell is, it allows you to see and HEAR who is at your front door, even when you are not home. This was the case for us last night on Halloween. We took our two boys, and some of the oldest youth group members (the ones who wouldn’t trick or treat on their own, since they’re the size of the people handing out the candy) and off we went into the blustery night to commandeer some sweet treats. Now, although we wanted to take our kids to get candy, we also wanted to join in the festive spirit and provide other kids with candy. What to do? Enter the infamous unmanned candy bowl, with the note saying please only take one or two. Now in past generations, when you left this bowl alone, you had no idea if people followed your note. Did one kid come right after you left and dump the whole bowl in their pillowcase? Well with the Ring doorbell, you now know. Not only were we able to see what happened, but we also heard the conversations that went on. There were two that stood out to me, and as we head into a season where we purposefully focus on gratitude, I think these two incidents show us two different ways to approach the world.
Scenario number one. In the video you see a dad and his child approach the bowl. It’s the child the approaches the bowl first and starts eyeing the candy. The child says, “Oh there isn’t a note saying how much to take.” Enter dad, “Oh don’t take one, or two. Take a handful. I’ll take a handful too. They really need our help with this candy.” The little boys, reply: “Oh.” You see the father go first and take a huge handful of candy, then the son does the same. Dad finished up the interaction with, “Wow we really lucked out.” Now you may be in a panic, if you are now thinking about the fact that whatever you said near someone’s front door may be being reviewed by the homeowner at some point. Sometimes we are like this dad. We decide that if something is available, I’m taking a bunch, and technically it didn’t say that you couldn’t. We have a habitat of justifying the greed in our lives, instead of calling it out for what it is. The dad in the video not only embraced this idea, but then convinced his son that they were doing us a favor—they really need help with this candy. I have a youth group full of 6th- 12th graders. Trust me, I have plenty of help when it comes to candy if I need someone to take it off my hands. We have all sorts of reasons we use to convince ourselves that we aren’t being greedy, because let’s face it, who wants to admit that they’re selfish? An unmanned candy bowl was seen as an opportunity to take as much as they wanted, and we sometimes go through life seeing situations as opportunities to get what we want, instead of opportunities to show thanks.
Now before you lose all hope, and shake your fist in the air, or start to say, “What’s wrong with parents these days?” Let’s visit scenario number 2. The child and parent approach the bowl. The child literally squeals with delight, “There’s Hershey’s in here, and picks up their one piece of candy.” The parents’ response, “Oh that’s perfect. Say thank you house.” Then you hear a small voice say, “Thank you, house!” As they walk away, you see the parent look at all the Halloween decorations in the yard and say, “What an awesome house.” This mom has her child give thanks, even though Tim and I were not there to hear it. She has him stop before running to the next house for more candy. Then she notices the care that was put into decorating for the kids and compliments it. We should give thanks even when there’s no one around to hear it, because God always hears it. Giving thanks is so good for us, and it’s contagious. Unfortunately, greed is contagious too. We can encourage people around us to be thankful, simply by being thankful ourselves. We also can encourage people around us to embrace getting as much as they can, simply be how we behave. Don’t underestimate who may notice your gratitude and be inspired by it. Take the time to stop and say thank you, notice when people put effort into something and offer them a kind word. These tiny gestures go further than we sometimes realize, and they can chip away at selfishness in our hearts, change the way we see the world, bring us closer to God, brighten people’s day, and inspire others to do the same.