The #1 Thing You Should Teach Your Children About Compassion

We often ask children the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Our intentions are good; we want to inspire dreams, encourage goal-setting, and cast vision for what their little lives can become. But sometimes we ask this question and inadvertently teach children to believe that until they are “grown ups” they have to wait to do anything significant.

As we seek to instill compassion into our children, the number 1 thing they need to hear from the adults in their lives is that they do not have to wait to make a difference. There is no “magic age” that a child needs to reach before they can impact the world.

C.S. Lewis once said, “Since it is so likely that [children] will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage.” Children perceive that the world is not as it should be; injustices exist, and needs are real. But children can also be equipped with a deep-seated belief system that tells them that heroes are also real, and they can be those heroes.

Last summer my then five-year-old son found me crying on our back porch. He asked what was wrong, and I tried to muster up words to explain the Iraqi and Syrian refugee crisis to him.

I will never forget his teary-eyed response to me: “Mom, I want to help them.”

He knocked on the door of compassion, and I could have chosen to say, “That’s so sweet of you, buddy. But the problem is too big, there’s not a lot we can do.” I saw the desperation in his eyes—the hurt he felt for kids like him who can’t go to school, who have no shoes or warm coats—and instead I invited him into the story.

My son spent weeks making beaded bracelets to sell to raise money for refugee relief efforts. He named the project, “The Green Refuge Project” and raised $150. That’s a drop in a bucket for such an incomprehensible social justice issue, but my little boy did something big before he even stepped foot into a kindergarten classroom.

Something miraculous happens in each of us, regardless of age, when we decide to act. Our hearts seem to somehow grow, our courage and resolve strengthen, and our belief that there are things worth fighting for is renewed. Imagine the possibilities if we invite the current generation of children into the bigger story now while their eyes are still bright-eyed and not yet jaded by the brokenness of the world.

Here are five ways that you can engage your children in acts of compassion:

  1. Invite your child to join you in sponsoring a World Vision child.

By sponsoring a child with World Vision, you not only make a huge impact in the life of a child in need, but your own child will be opened up to—literally—to a whole new world. Your child can draw pictures, and write letters to your sponsored child. They can also help you pick up little treats to send your sponsored child (stickers, pencils, notebooks, personal photos, etc.).

  1. Have your child help you pick out food items to donate to a food pantry.

1 out of every 5 children in America does not receive enough food to eat. Your children go to school with other children who may not know where their next meal will come from. Talk to your child about this, and then engage them in being a helper by going to the store to pick up nonperishable items that can be donated to your local food bank, or directly to your school to be distributed to other children in need.

  1. Get crafty for a cause.

Make bracelets, sell lemonade, hold a bake sale, create greeting cards…whatever creative bug your child has, fan the flame and show them how they can use their interests to raise money for something they care about.

  1. Invite your child to join you for service projects.

Compassion, like most character traits, is caught rather than taught. Your children are watching your lead, and when you volunteer to serve you show them you mean what you say about the importance of taking action.

You can take this a step further by inviting your children to participate with you in service. You will not only bond closer to your child, but you will provide them with memories, and cultivate their heart for help and service.

  1. Pray together.

Prayer is critical to instilling compassion in the heart of a child. God is the author of justice and compassion, and it is He who equips us with His heart in order to be His hands in the world. Praying with our children is a powerful way to ask God to use our children to meet needs in the world, as well as a great way to model a life of faith for your children to follow.

As a practical bonus, World Vision has a fabulous new resource called the “Play It Forward Guide” that will help you leverage this summer with your child as an opportunity to change the world.  Be sure to check it out, and watch your child flourish as their compassion for others grows.

The hearts of children are large, and full of dreams. Let them dream of who they will one day become, but teach them that they do not have to wait to be heroes in the bigger story. They are little people, but powerful forces in this world.

Run Hard. Love Strong.









What To Do When You Want To Give Up

What is it that you regret in your life? Maybe an opportunity you passed up? Maybe words you said in anger? Maybe the extra helping of Oreo Cheesecake at the 4th of July cookout you attended (yeah… I’m just going to fess up to that one)?

I regret the times in my life when I gave up too soon; the times when I threw in the towel because things got too hard and the excitement of a new adventure wore off. Those are the moments in my life that I look back on and wonder what would have happened if I had pushed past whatever discomfort I was experiencing. What “wins” have I missed out on because I gave up?

I regret those times when I failed simply because I forfeit.

This year I have set out to run my first half marathon with Team World Vision. I am aiming to raise $2500 in order to supply 50 children with a lifetime of clean water.

Today I wanted to quit. For a variety of reasons it’s been difficult to press on, whether it’s been a conflict registering for the race itself, personal injury, or otherwise frustrating circumstances I wanted to say, “Forget it. This just isn’t for me.”

I’ve made it my aim over the last few years to slow down on the decision making process when there are strong emotions involved. I’ve tried to stop and allow myself to feel the emotions without reacting to them. It’s definitely a work in progress, but progress has been made. When I have felt the monster of defeat and discouragement rear its ugly head I have given myself the space to feel those emotions, but then I pull back, breathe, and ask God for wisdom.

You know what I’ve found? God is speaking to us, and He wants to show us the way of life and wisdom. He wants to lead us often more than we want to follow Him. If we stop and ask for His breath of discernment through His Word (The Bible), and His Holy Spirit in us then we can determine a course of action that is not led by fickle emotions, but is led by a strong, faithful, and good God.

So today I did just that. I felt the weight of defeat, and the strong desire to quit. I allowed myself to feel the feelings, but I refused to make a decision in the middle of them. I opened my Bible, and listened to worship music. I took some time to think through a few things so that I could make a wise decision in the midst of raw emotions:

  1. Who Is God? What is His proven character?
  2. Who has He called me to be?
  3. Why did I initially set out to reach my goals?

As I dug into God’s word and prayed,  Esther chapter 4 came to mind. Esther is positioned to be the deliverer of the Jews from a recently passed law that ordered their death and annihilation (no pressure, right?). Esther had her doubts about her role. She was scared, and she wanted out. Her calling was weighty, and there was much at stake. She wrote a letter to her adoptive father, Mordecai, about her feelings. His response was direct, to say the least:

“Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. 14For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4: 13-14)

Mordecai calls Esther to the carpet, lays out the consequences of her backing down, and then reminds her of her royal position. It was no accident that she was where she was, and it was up to her to step forward and own it. She would be the one to experience loss if she quit.

But she didn’t quit. She felt the emotions, she sought counsel, she prayed, and then she obeyed. Feelings and all, she stepped out to finish what she was called to do. She rescued the Jews through wise obedience and follow through.

I want to be like that. I want to punch fear in the face and press on, one foot in front of the other, continuing to do each “next right thing” all the way to victory.

So what is it in your life that you are discouraged by? What is hard right now? What do you want to quit? Is it a job? Or your weight loss goal? Or that dream you’ve been trying to run down? Maybe it’s your marriage? Or maybe it’s a bad habit you’ve been trying to break, but can’t seem to get a handle on?

Dear friend, don’t give up! Keep going!

Feel the feelings, but don’t act out of them. Stop. Pray. Read God’s Word. Listen. Seek counsel. And keep your eyes open.

One foot in front of the other, one moment at a time. Your story is being written, and you are in the dark, hard parts. But just past the pain is victory if you press on.

I’m with you in the trenches. Let’s soldier on, fight for noble good, and press on together.

I leave you with a favorite passage from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings: 

Sam: It’s like in the great stories Mr. Frodo, the ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn’t want to know the end because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end it’s only a passing thing this shadow, even darkness must pass. A new day will come, and when the sun shines it’ll shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you, that meant something even if you were too small to understand why. But I think Mr. Frodo, I do understand, I know now folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going because they were holding on to something.

Frodo: What are we holding onto, Sam?

Sam: That there’s some good in the world, Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.

Run Hard. Love Strong.