Between Facebook status updates and reality shows like American Idol, Americans seem to be focusing on themselves, and this is the example that is set before our children. “It’s all about me.” I need to be noticed, I need to be famous, I need the best, I need to be happy. So how do we change that? As moms, we take action and target the heart with instilling compassion, something that our culture doesn’t reward.
Compassion is teaching awareness that we are more alike to others and is defined as “a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another whose be stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.” But look at the word, compassion. Jesus has called us to have a passion for his people. Throughout the New Testament, Jesus shows compassion for those who suffer. In Matthew 9, we find Jesus making a circuit of the towns and we see tears flood his face as he heals broken and ailing bodies. He reminds us to have compassion for his beloved people.
“And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in
their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom
and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds,
he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless,
like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples,
“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray
earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
Matthew 9:35-38, ESV.
Instilling compassion begins at an early age when toddlers are fighting over toys, “How do you feel when you your friend takes a toy away? Now do we want our friends to feel sad when do that to them?”
Preschoolers are on the edge of realization that the world does NOT revolve around them. I’ve done this by reading stories about Jesus healing the sick, why Jesus died on the cross and paralleled these stories with leading my children to donate their toys to the Salvation Army or helping me make a meal for a friend whose husband or child passed away. I tell my children often, “Don’t shine so others can see you, shine so that through you, others can see him [Jesus].”
My oldest has great compassion for the suffering and pain of others and part of the reason she is so compassion for the hurting and the lost can be attributed to a missions trip to the inner city of New York. For ten days, Cheyenne and her daddy served soup to the homeless and offered to pray with them, while playing with the kids living on the streets. At night, her place of rest was an old church on the verge of being condemned, sleeping on the floor in a sleeping bag. Cheyenne is a little Nebraska girl, surrounded by rows of corn, clean streets, good people with manners; very rarely has she ever seen a homeless person in our town and missions trips like going to New York awakened her awareness of others—others that God cares for deeply. I highly recommend and encourage you to take your child on a missions trip, volunteer at the homeless shelter, visit the sick in the hospital, make a meal for those who are shut-ins. It will ignite the passion that Jesus spoke about so often.
1. Donate: Have your child help you sort through and donate his clothes and toys to shelters or stores like The Salvation Army.
2. Volunteer: Find an organization or ministry that suits your family. Volunteering in soup kitchens or watching infants so moms can go to Bible study teaches our children not only compassion but serving.
3. Sponsor a child with organizations like Compassion International.
4. Visit Shut-ins. Bring a meal and encourage your child to draw a picture to grace their refrigerator.
5. Visit a Nursing Home: Explain to your children how lonely nursing homes can be and ask them to make a card to encourage the people they are going to visit.
6. Bring flowers to the sick. Most hospitals allow this.
7. Get a pet. (I know, more work for you). Having a pet teaches responsibility and that the animal depends on your child to be walked, loved, cared for and fed.
8. Stand up to Bullying. In such a passive world, encourage your child to stand up to those who are being bullied. Jesus asked us to care for the weak and the hurting; getting picked on is no exception.
9. Tell Stories. Tell them the stories of Jesus and how he healed the hurting. Begin with Matthew 9, one of my favorite chapters.
10. Play competitive games. Games teach your child the grace of losing and how it feels to lose. This is a great time to explain positive sportsmanship and how our words and actions can affect others.
11. Mission Trip: Visit with your church and get information about the various missions trips your church supports. In doesn’t have to be traveling all the way to New York or Honduras to open your child’s eyes. It can be simple and local, like cleaning up a church, helping a single mom move, planting flowers, constructing a playground, or hanging sheet rock in someone’s home. I recommend at least one mission trip a year.
12. Help Others. Besides assigning chores, ask your child to help you with your chore or help his sister clean her room. This creates tolerance and a good work ethic too . . . many hands make light work.
Learn more about the author Heather Riggleman
Want more of Heather? Check out God Asks Us To Have A Single Focus
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