Every now and then you hear an amazing story in the news of an exceptional preschooler who comes up with an amazing idea on how to show compassion to others. As a parent you marvel with wonder, asking yourself, what are they doing that I’m not? If you have a preschooler like mine, you have trouble convincing them to share a toy with a friend much less show compassion for a stranger.
Nonetheless, I think it’s important to give our kids an opportunity at every age to think beyond themselves. Compassion is caught, not taught, we have to model it in our adult lives for our kids to make it a part of who they are. When I started as a parent I either tried to make this task more complicated than it needed to be or convinced myself, oh we will do that when they get older. I’m starting to realize if I want to meet any of my goals as a parent I have to start small now, not wait till “things get easier.” Consequently, we have started to integrate small practices of compassion into our calendar year in hopes our children will begin to think beyond themselves and learn to show care for others. Here are a few easy ideas from us on how to get started:
- Homeless Care Packs – This idea was sparked when my son started asking questions about the “people with signs on the side of the street.” Naturally, he asked what their sign said. Once I explained to him the situation he sweetly inquired why they couldn’t come to our home? Of course, this pierced my Momma heart. I realized we have to do something. We couldn’t keep driving by ignoring the people we saw on a regular basis. Thus the idea of filling our car with homeless care packs was born! Below is a link with one list to give you an idea of where to start. We joined with friends to gather the items for the packs. Then the kids and I packed the ziplock bags together at home. Now when we see someone with a sign we have something to give them. Just the other day we handed one out and I came away crying (of course because after motherhood I cry over everything), The experience humanized this homeless lady in a way I couldn’t ignore. These kids of mine continue to help teach me each day.
- Bake Cookies – One thing I’ve realized when trying to be a servant to my community with preschoolers is that anything we can do from home and give to others is a win! One day I hope to again show up to a place and put in some time reaching out to those in need but for now any small thing we can make, bake or take from our home to give is fabulous. A few months back I read about the work of amazing woman serving the “least of these” in their communities. I was inspired and started probing to see how I could help those in the prisons in our community. I stumbled upon Kairos Prison Ministry (link below). A few times a year they need 30,000 cookies for the inmates they serve. They give you some easy guidelines and will take as many cookies as you are willing to bake on these special dates. I’m sure there are other ways to serve this population but this felt like a great way for our family to serve from our home. Contact them to get more info on how you can help. Also I’m sure anyone in your community would love homemade cookies so if you don’t want to do this just bake them for a neighbor and brighten their day! The lesson of showing love will be just as powerful.
- Donate- I love donating things from our home! It feels like such a win, decluttering, repurposing something that’s been collecting dust and combating some of the materialism our kids are inundated with. Before Christmas this year we went through each space in our home and selected over 250 items to donate. We choose to donate to an organization that helps local refugee families because at the time they were doing a donation drive. Find a cause or an organization you can get behind and bring your no longer needed items there. It was hard for our kids to let go of some of their toys and clothes. We had lots of talks about why we needed to be generous and who we were giving the items too. Not only did we prevent “stuff overload” in our home after Christmas we were able to practice generosity in a very tangible way during the holidays. The holidays for our kids is so much about getting gifts because they are lucky to have a BIG and GENEROUS family. They need chances to give in order to understand the reason for Christmas. We definitely are going to make this a holiday tradition in our home.
- Clean Up Litter – I believe that one important way to show care for others in our community is through caring for the environment as much as possible. We live in a pretty average Chesterfield neighborhood still I am shocked at the amount of litter that lines the ditches of our neighborhood streets. We started bringing a plastic bag with us when we take evening strolls. The kids carefully retrieve trash they find to throw out properly. Now even when out and about at the park or in the city they notice litter and clean up trash wherever they go. I love that they see the need to keep our communities clean. I hope eventually this practice grows into real love for the beautiful world around us.
- Check out HandsOn Greater Richmond – If you don’t like these ideas or want to find more ways to serve the HandOn Greater Richmond website is an amazing resource for finding places to get involved. I love that you can search for service opportunities on their site and filter by age and area. As our kids grow I hope to use the site to find more age appropriate ways to serve our community!
Start small and work up to bigger projects. If we want to grow strong and kinds kids it’s essential they are shown the world beyond their circumstances. You can do it!