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.

Haley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step Wisely

We have spent the last five weeks exploring what it means to be truly happy; to be deeply content and at peace. Most everything we have discussed has had nothing to do with circumstances, but instead has focused on our own hearts and the real issues that cut us to the core. We cannot separate authentic happiness from our hearts being set free by the Living God.

There are so many things that we could discuss this final week that fall under the “So You Want To Be Happy” umbrella. As I considered what would be most fitting to discuss today, I couldn’t help but consider how satisfying it is when I see my son starting to make wise choices based on what he is being taught at home.

If you have children, you most likely want your children to grow into wise adults. You take the job of “parent” seriously, and you want to teach your kids right from wrong, how to succeed, and many lessons that you have learned along the way. When you witness your kids choosing the right things you have taught them (speaking kindly, telling the truth, and choosing wisdom over foolishness for example), I am sure that you swell up with pride.

Our true, lasting, deep-seated happiness can only come when we are rooted in relationship with God. When we accept the love of God that has shown to us in Jesus, we are immediately accepted as His children, no matter what. Our good-standing with God is dependent only upon our faith in who He is and the work He has accomplished.

You love your kids no matter what. They could act out terribly on any given day, but they are still your kids. You desire for them to be healthy, and to become wise. God calls us His children, and He desires the same for us. He delights in us as His children. He actively teaches us right from wrong, and how to walk wisely. He desires for us to live healthy, wise lives.

In the book of 1 Kings we see God tell Solomon, David’s son,  and a man who loved the Lord, to ask what He should give to Solomon. I’d probably ask for some kind of super power like flying (I am not a huge fan of airplanes, and would rather just take myself places), or maybe even the ability to pause the world around me to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee when everything gets to crazy and out of control. But Solomon was different. Solomon asked for supernatural understanding and wisdom in order to govern God’s people well.

Whoa. Puts my petty requests to shame.

You and I have the amazing gift of being able to glean from Solomon’s God-given, supernatural wisdom. The book of Proverbs is a collection of wise sayings primarily written by Solomon to his son(there are a few additional contributing authors as well). I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Proverbs. I cannot tell you the amount of trouble that I have been safely steered away from as a direct result of studying the wisdom found in this treasure of a book.

Just today a situation came up that could have really blown up. I felt personally attacked, misunderstood, and I really (really) wanted to fight back. But after years of reading Proverbs regularly, I instantly thought, “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, And he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city (Proverbs 16:32),” and then, “Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs (Proverbs 10:12). ” I talked myself down, and was able to step back to make the decision to forgive, give the benefit of the doubt, and stop conflict before it started (over something silly, might I add).

Our health as growing people depends upon our willingness to receive and embrace wisdom in all areas of our life. So today’s challenge to you is to take the next 31 days and read one chapter of Proverbs everyday. Proverbs is a very approachable book, whether you have studied a Bible for years, or whether you haven’t even purchased a Bible yet. As you read, underline portions that really speak to your areas of struggle, and when you encounter moments in your day-to-day living that irritate you or challenge you, recall what you’ve been reading and choose a different path.

Step wisely. Walk in the wisdom, and reap the fruit of peace that comes with knowing you are choosing healthy living according to the supernatural, God-given wisdom taught in His word.

I’m curious: have you ever acted foolishly? What did it cost you? Or have you ever chosen wisdom over your impulses? How did that turn out?

 

Run Hard. Love Strong.

~Haley~