11.24.2008

compassion

after a conversation i had with my husband last night, a question has been on my mind all day: how do you teach compassion?

i read this post this morning and it brought me to tears. i know that there are many, many people around the world (even in our own country) that suffer, and my heart aches for them. but how do you teach that? how do you teach people to feel and connect with others at that level?

especially as a parent, how do we teach compassion to our children? you can teach them that it's good to help others who are in need of help. but where does the idea of "helping because it's the right thing to do" transcend into helping because your heart is sympathetic to the person's suffering?

there are people who choose to give their time and/or money to charities because it's the right thing to do. or perhaps they were made to feel guilty into giving. or because the money they give or the time they commit x number of hours a month looks good on their resume. but what do you truly gain from that? i was guilty of that especially when i began to prepare myself for college. i participated in school sponsored community service activities. helped out on my own time at the food bank. but truly, what was it for? just one more thing to check off on my college application. in all honesty, after i got into college, never once did i take the time to offer my time in the community. how does it help others in need when the only time or money you're willing to sacrifice is when it's beneficial for you? obviously, i did not fully understand the meaning of compassion (and i was technically already an adult).

so how do you teach compassion (to children and adults)? there's probably no way to truly teach compassion. i know that as parents, all we can do to teach them about compassion is by showing compassion to others. not simply giving money to this charity or that organization when it's convenient for us. but to give our money sacrificially. or to give our time in serving our community, whether it be to a chartible organization or helping a friend who is suffering. we can show our children what compassion is all about by striving to live out what it means on a daily basis.

3 comments:

ConnieK said...

Great post! We teach compassion through our pets in our house since they have needs but cannot speak for themselves. We show Gabby how to know what they are feeling and how to help them when they are sick or scared. And at the same time she is learning unconditional love in return for her compassion.

MoziEsmé said...

This is a tough one. The only thing I can say is that we need to make sure we have it ourselves before trying to pass it on to our kids, and for me, it is an exercise. I have to consciously strive for compassion, at least the active kind. I tear up at things that pull my heartstrings, but it's not second nature for me to do anything about it.

I'm trying to change that. And one way is I have "act of kindness" on my daily to do list. I don't get there every day, but at least I consciously am thinking about it. And some day it may actually become a habit! That's what we're aiming for, anyway.

SarahHub said...

I think you're right - the way you live daily will influence our kids the most.

I'm trying to influence Evie early. Even things like saying "We share with people who don't have what we have," has to make some impact, right? I even use that line when we're just at a playdate and she doesn't want to share toys.

I'm still trying to figure it out myself!

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