How do we show our gratitude?
by Jan Edmunds (revised, originally published in 2007)
Suitable for Whole School (Pri)
To consider the importance of kindness and gratitude.
Preparation and materials
- If possible, have available an image of a scruffy, black dog and the means to display it during the assembly. An example is available at: https://tinyurl.com/y9banvbc
- Ask the children if they know what the word ‘gratitude’ means. The dictionary definition is ‘the quality of being thankful’.
Explain that gratitude means being thankful to somebody for something that they have done.
- Introduce the following story by saying that it was told by a soldier returning from the Second World War. It is a touching story about his experience. Ask the children to think about this as they listen to the story and be ready to answer some questions at the end.
If available, show the image of a scruffy, black dog.
A Scruffy, Black Dog
There was a deafening sound of gunfire. Thick smoke filled the air. Several British soldiers were caught in enemy territory. They had been cut off by the advancing Germans, so they fled into the hills, where they took shelter in a deserted village. Keeping low against the ruins of a house, they heard a whining noise coming from inside what was left of the building.
One of the soldiers, whose name was Jack, crawled into the rubble to find a scruffy, black dog cowering there. It was very weak, but it wagged its tail to show that it was pleased to see someone. Jack stroked its head, and then lifted it up and carried it outside to show the others.
‘Must have been left here when the enemy stormed the village,’ he said.
The soldiers called the dog ‘Lucky’ because he was lucky to be alive. The men and the dog stayed in hiding for many days, sharing food, warmth and friendship.
One night, Lucky seemed restless. He sensed that something was wrong. Jack was asleep, but Lucky pulled at his sleeve to warn him of impending danger. Soon, the soldiers realized that a small battalion of German troops had entered the village. The British soldiers and Lucky lay low, hoping that they wouldn’t be found.
Suddenly, a figure seemed to appear from nowhere and threw itself on Jack. Lucky sprang into action and leapt at the enemy. He buried his teeth into the attacker, saving Jack’s life. A fierce battle followed, but the attackers were defeated and the British soldiers and Lucky were safe. They knew that it was time to leave their hiding place and make for the coast before enemy reinforcements arrived.
They eventually made their way to the coast, where they managed to signal to an English ship. A dinghy was despatched to pick them up. Jack was the last to wade out to it. Lucky stood shivering on the shore. Jack looked back at him and could not bear to leave the faithful dog. He turned, scooped him up in his arms and then carried him through the waves. A naval officer standing by to steady the dinghy said with indignation, ‘You can’t bring that animal with you; he’ll eat all our rations.’
‘Don’t worry, he can have half of mine,’ said Jack. ‘If it hadn’t been for him, we wouldn’t be here today.’
‘OK, hop in then,’ said the sailor.
A happy soldier holding a bedraggled dog that was wagging its tail was helped into the dinghy.
The soldiers arrived back in England safely and after a short time in quarantine, Lucky was reunited with Jack. The war was now over and Lucky lived with his grateful friend to the end of his days.
- Ask the children the following questions.
- Why did the soldiers go into the hills?
- What had happened to the village?
- Where did they find the dog?
- Why did they give him the name ‘Lucky’?
- How did Lucky save Jack’s life?
- Why did they leave their hiding place?
- What did they find when they reached the coast?
- Why did the sailor want Jack to leave Lucky behind?
- What was Jack’s reply?
- How did Jack show his gratitude to the dog?
Time for reflection
Lucky showed his gratitude to Jack by saving his life, and Jack did not abandon his faithful friend. He, too, showed gratitude in return.
Ask the following questions, allowing time for reflection after each.
- Who are we grateful to?
- Who has helped us recently?
- Are we people who say thank you often?
- Is there someone to whom we should show gratitude today?
Teach us to show our gratitude for what we have
By caring for those around us
And for the wonderful world in which we live.
‘When I needed a neighbour’ (Come and Praise, 65)