Since having my twins there are a few phrases I hear over and over and over again. Namely, “Wow, twins?”, and “Oh my, there’s two of them”, and most often I hear, “You’ve certainly got your hands full”. But, even with that awe struck observation that, yes, I have two babies and yes, my hands are full, do you know that only two people have actually helped me in all three months of my boy’s life? Both saints were senior citizens. I shared that fact with the sixty some-odd year old man yesterday who unloaded my groceries and helped load my stroller in thtr trunk. He said something that stuck with me, “We’re the last generation to think of people outside of ourselves”.
Yikes! How do we change this?
Is he right? I wondered if I should be offended. I started thinking about myself and the people I know. I think I’ve surrounded myself with good people who go out of their way to help others. I was raised to hold the door for moms with strollers, handicap, children, and the elderly. I volunteered at inner city church camps and summer school to help kids less fortunate and I chose a helping profession. I’d like to think I was raised right, although I’m sure I could do more, but what if the seniors aren’t the last generation. What if we are the last generation?
So then I started wondering how I can be sure my boys are raised to show empathy and compassion. I’ve prayed for their hearts since before they were born, but as a parent, it’s also up to us to lead by example and provide our children with opportunities to serve. Hmmm, what can I do? What would I tell a parent in my office to do?
- Think out loud
This is one of the best ways to influence our children positively. Share your thoughts out loud. For example, “Oh, I notice that sweet lady is struggling to get through the door with her stroller. I’m going to go help her”. Or, “Your teacher has been working so hard tutoring you all and keeping up with her lesson plans too. I’m trying to decide what I can do to show we’re thankful and help her out”. Sharing your positive thoughts will hopefully transfer and will become the way your children think as well.
2. Write notes and make phone calls
From a very early age kids need to know how to show gratitude and compassion. Even a two year old can put a handprint on a hand written note to thank grandma for coming to visit or say thank you to the church nursery helper for teaching them a new song. And, in the digital age where texts and facebook messages will become the norm, why not be counter-cultural and show our children how much more personal a phone call is when someone needs a friend.
3. Recognize problems, solve them together and take action
Sharing your thoughts aloud helps here too. Talk to your kids about issues in the community, get their thoughts on what can be done and then involve them in the efforts. Last Memorial Day Austin had tragic, fatality causing floods. If my boys were a few years older I wouldv’e brought this to their attention and shared the list of supplies that were needed. My husband and I rummaged around the house gathering things to help and then went to the store for what we didn’t have on hand. I would love to involve my children in things like this.
Studies show that children who have chores do better in school because they’re not living like an honored guest in their own home. They’re contributing to the family every day and showing respect for others by keping their rooms clean, unloading groceries, helping with dishes, and assisting parents with cooking. They grow up knowing what it takes to be a part of a family, a community, and learn to do their part and behave unselfishly.
5. Shop for others
Your neighbor had a baby and you’re bringing them a casserole? Take your children to the store with you to shop for ingredients. You’re going to Target to shop for a birthday party your child is attending? Have them make a list of things their friend might enjoy and go together. You’re playing Blue Santa at Christmas time? Let the kids choose an angel from the tree at the mall and shop with you. And no, they don’t get to choose something for themselves, too. That defeats the point. It’s about teaching them there’s something, someone, outside our selves that matters.
I don’t want them to grow up with attitude of “that’s a problem, they should do something about it”. Who’s this alledged “they” anyway? I want to teach them to think, “that’s a problem, I can fix it”, or at least make an effort to. I don’t want the seniors to be the last generation of people who care about others. In fact, I don’t want my kids to be the last generation. I want caring for others to be the norm again circa 1955. Can we make this happen?