When our children were little, one way my husband and I taught them compassion was by showing them that the poor choices they made could hurt others. For example, if my child took another child’s toy I might say to him, “Johnny see you made Jill cry because you took her toy.” That was age appropriate and great at the time. However, as my children grew older I wanted to continue to teach them to think of others in ways that not only benefited them, but helped others at the same time.
For the last few years our children have volunteered at our church and in our community. I have found that they are less likely to sit around thinking about the next toy that they want or the things that did not go their way now that they have met children who do not receive gifts for their birthday or Christmas. My children have come to appreciate people no matter what they look like and learned that anyone can be your next friend. They know that there are people out there who cannot leave home or cook after delivering Meals on Wheels with their grandmother last summer, and spent time praying for those new friends. I used to think that helping others was only for the benefit of those who were being helped, but I have found that the return for myself and my family was even more valuable.
Getting our children out of their current comfortable situation and involved in the lives of others was a good thing.
Volunteering helped them feel encouraged and valued and they learned to value others as well. No matter what age your children are there is most likely an organization in your community that could use some help. A few ideas to get your family involved include:
-food pantry/ homeless shelter volunteer
– Meals on Wheels
-growing a garden to donate food to homeless
-baking/selling cookies and donating the proceeds to your favorite charity
-Coats for Kids- shop for coats or clean out your closet and donate to this great organization who give to children in need
-Volunteer farm- you can go as a family and help plant and harvest food to be donated
-bag up your lunch leftovers and give them to homeless
-adopt a family (ask shelters, Social Services or nursing homes) and give them gifts for the holidays
Seeing those less fortunate encourages all of us to be thankful, but it’s more than that. Not only do we help our children’s attitudes improve, we are teaching them to value others no matter what they look like, dress like, or what their life circumstances are. We are teaching them not to judge others and to truly love one another as Jesus did.