What Matters Most:
Teaching Our Children Compassion In A World Of Hate
Last week I was upstairs and I heard one of my younger kids yell out “MOM!!!! Where Are YOU?!?!” at the top of his lungs as he ran up the stairs to find me.
As a Mom you know the sounds of your kids running and playing…and this clearly had that different “panic tone” to it.
With fear in his eyes he pleaded with me to tell him it wasn’t true….he was downstairs at my in-laws and had seen a portion of a news report about 20 Ethiopian Christians being kidnapped and killed.
Like most parents we try to guard what our children see on TV and the news is not something we just freely let our younger kids watch… uh yeah…for this very reason.
Usually, the kids will just walk by the TV on their way outside…but not this time. The horrific story caught his attention and he just could not fathom how it could be true.
All kinds of questions and fears were swirling around in his heart and mind. At first I was so frustrated that he had found out about this horrific attack…noting that this was even closer to his heart…because these people were from his homeland where he was born and lived for the first years of his life.
I sat with him and listened and answered many hard questions of whether his family in Ethiopia was going to be okay. He questioned how any of us could be sure that we are safe. He was trying so hard to grapple with the concept of why anyone would think it was okay to kidnap and kill people based on their faith. Then as reality set in he moved on to asking if I thought that they felt pain when they were killed and if they’re in heaven now…and on and on.
It was not an easy conversation in the least. My Mama heart was hurting for him because I knew this was hitting a chord deep down inside him. I want all my children to feel safe, but especially this one child. A few years ago when we traveled from Ethiopia back to the states he was scared to death that we were going to kill him. Of course, we didn’t know that the older boys in the orphanage had told him that when you leave with the foreigners they take you home and kill you…but that is another post.
Often I’ve wrestled with finding a balance of sheltering and helping my children process the hard realities of this world. In an idyllic way…I want my kids to enjoy a carefree childhood but as they grow it must be balanced with what is going on in our world today.
So, how do we bring these things up? How can we teach compassion and empathy when the world is scary and filled with so much hate?
We must acknowledge that we are our children’s primary teacher. They watch and study what we do, what we say, how we treat our husband, how we speak to others when we drive, at the doctors office, when we’re on the phone or being served at a restaurant and what we say about the person standing on the corner with a sign asking for a few coins.
I have to ask myself what am I showing my children? Am I too busy to care? Have I become self-absorbed or hardened to those needs around me?
Are my words and actions showing kindness, compassion, gratitude, empathy or am I so busy that I’m easily irritated and barking at others to get out of the way, to go get a job or to get a brain…Our kids will esteem what we esteem. They will mirror our kindness as well as our harshness.
By teaching our children to be focused, we are teaching them that they CAN make a difference even if it is just for one person. If we take on the attitude that it is better to do something than to do nothing at all, our child will learn to live and love others well.
How can we encourage our children to be those that see a need and be willing to take action to help others?
I’ve found that by creating a plan to do a weekly act of service is one way we are making a difference one person at a time. Some acts of service are small, others take more time or effort. As the kids see more needs and come up with more ideas we add them to our list.
Below are a few on our list…
1. Write a note or draw a picture for the garbage man
2. Leave a post it note for the mail man
3. Give money, gift card, protein bar or a meal to someone in need
4. Bring flowers or a basket of fruit to an older person or widow that lives on your block
5. Bring a cup of hot cocoa to the crosswalk attendant
6. Bake cookies for the firefighters or the policemen
7. Give an ice cold water bottle to the gardener or other worker on a hot day
8. Rake your neighbor’s leaves
9. Teach your children to look for the kid that is alone or looks sad and be their friend.
10. Work at a homeless shelter doing meal prep or serving a meal
11. Stop and say “Thank you for your service!” to someone in the armed forces and give them a $5 gift card…which they likely will not want to accept because they’re humble like that!
12. Have your kids go through their toys and clothes to donate to those who are in need.
13. Make a meal for a busy Mama or family that has recently adopted a child
14. Make donation bags to carry in your vehicle to hand out to those in need. For some ideas of what to put in these gift bags, we have placed socks, tooth brush & paste, hair comb, fingernail file, tooth picks, tissues, sanitizer, deodorant, lip balm, lotion, sewing pack, $5 gift card to McDonald’s or Starbucks, protein bar, nuts.
15. Pay for someone’s meal or buy them a dessert at a restaurant or in drive through. This is fun to do anonymously and watch how surprised they are when they find out.
16. Be a greeter at church or help serve by doing clean up after a potluck. Even little ones can go around and gather up paper plates and cups to put in the trash.
17. Pray for those being persecuted for their faith like Pastor Saeed in Iran and for his wife and two children here in Idaho. To read more about those who are persecuted for the faith you can sign up for Voice of the Martyrs Newsletter and follow along on their Prayer Map.
*The key here is also to let your kids work for or earn money so that they have their own money to give. It becomes real to them when they willingly give of their time, money, resources and ideas of how to help others.
I have found that my kids are willing to give BIG. They just needed to know that they could make a difference!
Read more: 10 From GEM: The Benefits Of Saying No
It does not matter how small the act of service but rather the heart behind it…to give more…love more…to learn to spread hope and joy.
How do you talk with your kids about tragedies around you or around the world and how are you making a difference?