Cultivating Generous Hands and Compassionate Hearts
By Marla Stewart Konrad
“I’m giving up birthday gifts so I can donate to kids who need help,” my 8-year-old daughter, Juliana, announced recently. Although her birthday was months away, her head was already swimming with plans about her party, her guest list and her plans to support a local charity that works with at-risk children.
“The kids in my class are saving the world,” she explained, telling me how one friend had decided to forfeit birthday gifts to support a doctor in Sudan, another to sponsor a child with World Vision and another to shave his head to raise $1,000 for charity.
Saving the world is a big undertaking, and Juliana’s one-day effort won’t put a big dent in our world’s problems, but giving up birthday presents is a great step in her growth in compassion and global awareness.
Even when our children were preschoolers, my husband and I encouraged them to use their birthday parties as an opportunity to bless others. Often, they simply invited friends to bring canned goods for a local food bank which they then helped deliver. One year, my son asked friends to bring a dollar to help support a needy school in Zimbabwe that I had recently visited. His small group of friends responded generously and by the end of the party, he had raised $100.
At Christmas, too, we work hard to remind them that the season is about giving. Just before Christmas, our family tradition is to volunteer at an inner-city mission to deliver food and presents to immigrant families and elderly people. Getting the children out of their middle-class world for a day has opened their eyes and given us great opportunities to talk about concerns for others.
Are we saving the world? No, but we are making Connections with people who are at-risk in our city and who need to feel celebrated. And the day becomes an opportunity for God to work in our children, to cultivate in them generous hands and compassionate hearts.
How can you cultivate compassion and a broader worldview in your child?
- Find ways for them to act — at birthdays, Christmas or another time of year.
- Demonstrate compassion and generosity by your example.
- Invite them to give something out of their allowance to help someone else.
- Use bedtime as a chance to pray for issues outside their little world.
Marla Stewart Konrad is a mom and the author of "Just Like You" (Zonderkidz, 2010).