Life's Tool Box – A Guide for Parents and Educators

April 9, 2013

Glass Half Full . . . and Overflowing

Filed under: Tools for Life Posts — by Life's Toolbox @ 12:34 pm
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url.jpg  On the final day of a lavish hotel Passover program, a lovely “contintental breakfast” was offered.  I was amazed, as I had been all week, at how extravagant and plentiful the food choices were – omelette stations, smoked fish, pancakes, bagels, cereal and more.  Making myself a cup of tea, I overheard a mother and her pre-teen child  nearby.  The young man remarked about the small dining room for breakfast (many guests had already checked out) and mom answered “well, they don’t need much for such a junky breakfast”.  I was shocked and saddened.  What I saw as more than adequate, generous and lavish, this mother was teaching her child was not good enough.  How would such a child go through life, with what levels of entitlement, superiority, anger and disappointment?

Earlier, during the holiday, on one of the panel discussions amongst the group of scholars in residence (a group I was honored to be part of), Rabbi Josh Joseph quoted the famous Pirkei Avot (Saying of the Fathers):   “Who is rich, the one who is happy with his lot. “  Today, Rabbi Joseph argued, we have turned this wisdom upside down, living as if we believe, who is happy with his lot, the one who is rich.

As parents, we want to give our children a good life, perhaps even a better life than ours.  For those parents blessed with the wealth to offer their children the newest gadgets, the poshest summer programs, and elegant passover vacations, it is important to realize what money can not buy.  The priceless gift we give our children, and sometimes we give it without even being aware we are doing so, is attitude and belief.   We give this gift through the words and actions our children witness, and they unpack and use it throughout their lives.

What present do we deliver when, standing in a lush tropical paradise, rather than admiring the gently swaying palms, we whine about crowding at the pool?  What gift do we offer when we reveal our jealousy in comments about someone’s clothes or shoes, or gossip about their job, home, car?   What lasting impact do we make when we wear our attitude, not of gratitude, but of disdain, entitled expectation, or cynicism, on our sleeve?

There is so much research on the health benefits of optimism and gratitude, that it seems almost as critical for parents to gift these qualities to their children as it is to provide balanced meals and medical care.  Positive attitudes, beliefs and world views are truly the gift that keeps on giving, offering children a route through life that protects, strengthens, and delivers rewards of happiness and deep satisfaction.  And in sharing this gift with our children, we would be helping ourselves as well.  We will live longer, healthier and happier lives if we move from complaining about what is missing, wrong, unfair, and focus instead on that awe-inspiring view of the ocean, the quality time spent in walks on the boardwalk, the 10 items on our plate rather than the one that ran out at the buffet.

For some , this comes easily.  Some wake each day tuned in to the positive.  For those of us, and I include myself, with a sarcastic, doubting edge, we can cultivate attitudes of gratitude.  We can switch our dark glasses for rose-colored lenses.  I can attest to the difference it has made for me, and I hope for my children.  I was thrilled to have some children with us for the holiday week in paradise, and deeply missed those who were not, though comforted myself knowing they were all well, happy, and doing what they want to be doing.  In a week of Florida sunshine, a spiritually moving holiday, time with family, and excellent food which I did not have to cook, plan, or clean up after, I found many opportunities to give my children and myself the wonderful gift of gratitude.  Nothing is perfect, and there are always times to find your proverbial glass half empty.  Thinking, and voicing to our children at those moments, that our glass is, in fact, half full, can move us from the negative to the overflowing happiness that is the greatest gift any parent can give.



  1. This blog is so on point. Thank you for reminding me about the value of rose colored glasses and glasses half full.

    Comment by Pamela Auerbach — April 9, 2013 @ 5:16 pm |Reply

  2. It brings “tears of joy” to hear about rosy outlooks……. it makes me want to try even more!!! Often, I try to think of “my cup runneth over” rather than it being half-full of blessings; it is so sustaining!!! E and S.

    Comment by E and S Milch — April 10, 2013 @ 1:34 pm |Reply

  3. Reminds me of Alice Herz Sommer – the oldest Holocaust survivor. She looks only at the good – she says she knows bad and so now only looks at good. We all need to remember this important life lesson!

    Comment by Sandy — April 10, 2013 @ 2:06 pm |Reply

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