Compassion. We hear a lot about compassion these days. Feeding the hungry, saving animals, and protecting unborn children are all examples of compassionate behavior.
Is it our nature to be compassionate or something we are taught through our upbringing? As parents we know that our children will learn to serve others by watching how we do it.
Several years ago, I began caring for a family member who was very ill. What we thought would be a short period of recovery ultimately took four years and ended with his death. It was a long journey and a great lesson in compassion.
We practiced patience, joy, and contentment as we were asked time and time again to reevaluate our priorities. We found comfort in focusing on three main points.
We like helping others. “Can I help, mama?” I can still see their sweet faces beaming with a quiet grin and dish towel in hand. They wanted to serve me, desired praise, and longed for time together.
It was during these days that I began to realize the power of teaching young ones to give of themselves to help others. It began with gentle reminders to hold the door for an elderly woman, return the grocery cart for a young mother with little ones, or offer to collect the mail for a neighbor.
As they’ve grown older, their watchful eye within the community has sharpened and they will still hold a door, deliver a cart, and love on their neighbors. Heather Haupt also has a wonderful book called Knights In Training in which she shares ways to instill compassion and nobility in young men.
We are called by God to serve. Sometimes when we hear God’s call, it’s easy to look around and ask, “Who, ME??” We feel underqualified and overbooked. Showing compassion toward others is often dirty, expensive, inconvenient, and frustrating.
Allowing your children to see you work through these challenges gives them a model to follow. Many times through Tom’s illness, my children saw me come home from a doctor’s appointment or the hospital frustrated and tired but they knew that because we loved him and wanted to treat him with compassion, we would press on.
A great reminder of this can be found in Psalm 145:8-9 “The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.”
We are not perfect and sometimes need help, too. As I mentioned, being compassionate is sometimes inconvenient and can spark a host of emotions. When the boys were in their early teens, they managed to shatter the glass door on our built-in oven.
Due to the expense, we decided to be creative and use other methods of cooking while we saved for a new one. Several months later a group of friends from church purchased one for us as a gift.
They wanted to show compassion for our family but it was very humbling and hard to accept. One of the men shared that by not accepting this gift we were robbing them of the opportunity to serve us with love.
Our children were able to see how others feel when receiving gestures of kindness.
I still reflect on our early days of parenting and wonder if we could have done more to develop a compassionate spirit in our children. They’ve seen us walk out service to others and they know of God’s love for those in need. Praise where you can and own any frustrations. They are watching and that’s just how it should be!
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