happy children smiling at the camera

Raising Compassion

We have partnered with an orphanage in Haiti over the years that we had a personal connection with as well as with a local ministry that does amazing things in our community for at risk youth. Both of those partnerships were founded before we had kids and Rob and I found ourselves recently wanting to invite our kids into engaging in helping other kids. We knew we wanted Compassion to be the recipient of that partnership and so I sort of came up with this plan.

And I am just being honest. The way I planned it in my head, was that I was going to call them to the dinner table and bring over two small bowls of rice and beans. They were going to look at the minuscule offerings and wonder where the roasted pork tenderloin, brussel sprouts with bacon, rolls and spinach salad were. These kids have grown up eating like prince and princesses rather than paupers. I was sure they would start grumbling and complaining and then we would look at them like “Realllllly?” It would be then that we would lead them to the couch to watch a few videos from Compassion about kids with real problems. Our kids would realize they are spoiled and that would last just long enough to be ok with the idea that maybe they should look outside themselves and help others.

This was how I was sure it would go down. And my certainty was dead wrong.

I called them to the table. It was November and during the month of November, our dinner prayers are written on leaves as we practice gratitude to God for whatever it is we are thankful for. Every night the kids take forrrrrevvvvvvverrrrr to write their thankfulness out. Rob and I sit over the waft of foodie deliciousness waiting to eat while they write novels. Sometimes Rob catches himself getting annoyed by their abundance of thanks because it takes soooo long. I laugh. This particular night was no different. They were thankful for family members, listing each name, dogs, sky, food, friends, rain, teachers, football, gymnastics, squirrels, God, tutors, you name it. After we shared our gratitude, I brought over the rice and beans. I stood there awaiting a response. They looked down and then looked up and then said it…. “Where is the silverware?” I said “We aren’t eating with silverware tonight because there are people who have no silverware.”  They said “What are we having?” I said, as planned, “Rice and beans.” And their response? “Yessssss! Rice and beans! We love rice and beans!”

Ok, so maybe that part didn’t go as planned. As we ate with our fingers, pinching our beans into the rice, we talked about kids who have little to eat if anything, kids who don’t know when they will get their next meal and our hope to be apart of changing that story. I told them we were going to sponsor a Compassion child that night and they were so excited! I asked them how they would feel about eating beans and rice once a month in honor of that kid and taking the money we would save by not eating meat and side dishes and putting that toward the feeding of our child. Aidan said passionately ”Once a month? Let’s do this at least 4 times a month!” Rob said this was poverty according to a foodie and I needed to make the beans and rice not so delicious, less garlic and herbs, he suggested so the kids groan more. Their zeal and excitement were surprising me, yet they weren’t being called to sacrifice much at that point.

There was great conversation that pushed the edges of our worldview into greater expanse. And to be true Rob had mentioned early on that when he went to India, he experienced that people ate with one hand and used the other to wipe. So of course there was a moment where Rob looked at Aidan and said “Dude you just used your wiper hand to grab your beans.” We laughed like crazy, but then we started talking about the toilet paper we take for granted. And God knows we need more toilet paper than normal when we eat beans.

We sat on the couch and listened to stories of real people in other countries and what they face on a daily basis. We saw them experience help, food, shelter, education and love because of people who began to care and give and invest in them through Compassion. We looked through the hundreds of names of kids in countries all across the globe that are in need. We finally found our girl. Her name is Mary Mbuvi. She lives in Kenya and is the cutest thing ever. She was born on our anniversary and lives in an area that is widely affected by AIDS. The kids wanted to sponsor her. We said “This costs $38 a month to help feed, cloth and educate her. What will you sacrifice?” They agreed to an amount that they would work for and give and we did as well. This was a really important moment as a family where, together, we made a decision to each sacrifice to collectively help this girl.

I realized some things that night with my family that I would like to share with yours.

We are called to raise compassion. 

You aren’t just born with compassion. Compassion comes from engaging other peoples stories and allowing them to hit you. Our kids had been called to have compassion on the playground, on mission trips, at home and with strangers many times before. This time was only different because it was in a land far away for a girl they have never met. Part of our job is to raise compassion within our kids. Compassion comes when we ask our kids to walk in other peoples shoes. Compassion comes when we don’t just shelter our kids from truth, but open their eyes to the hardship of other people’s experiences. Compassion comes when we ask our children what they can do about what they see, whether what they see is in their own school, their neighborhood or across the world.

Kids are more compassionate than we give them credit for.

My kids surprised me! They have so much to give! They were ready to care, to help, to sacrifice. They want to do more than this. They have talked about Mary everyday since sponsoring her. I think the surprise is not that my kids had compassion, but that I expected them not to.

The very definition of the word compassion is this: a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.

Compassion is not just feeling badly for another, but doing something about it. What I didn’t give my kids credit for is that they would want to do something  if doing something was going to require sacrifice. It almost felt as if they responded with hearts that said “We have been waiting for you to ask of us what we know we have within us!” My job as a parent is to draw out what is already there.

We, as parents are often the cause of killing compassion.

We pad our kids with all the comforts they could ask for. Our idea of sacrifice is when we say no to buying candy in the grocery store. We ask little of our kids in the way of helping others. We pass hurting people everyday in front of our kids. We don’t like simplicity or rice and beans or sacrifice and so we ask it not of ourselves or our kids. The person having the hardest time at the table was not my kids, it was me.

If I want to raise compassion, then I need to have it indwell within me.  

I have a feeling if your family is not engaged in the pain of others and sacrificing to bring healing to that pain it is because you don’t want to sacrifice, you don’t want to have to slow down, you don’t want to have to give up, you don’t want to have to have your worldview expanded. Am I preaching? Yes….. to myself.

We raise compassion when we live it. That night at that table, my kids had compassion. We just finally awakened what was already there. The more I collide with Jesus, He awakens within me this deep sense of compassion for others and this deep awareness that I have a long way to go to live and breathe the kind of compassion He did.  I want Jesus to raise in me compassion so that I can raise it in my kids. As the Psalmist prays “Let your compassion come to me that I may live…” It is compassion within in me lived out that brings life, real life, both to me and those who receive it. So I pinch my beans and rice and I pray for Mary Mbuvi and let my kids teach me again and I keep running into Him, needing His compassion as I hope to hand it out to others.

I invite you to join our family in extending compassion and sponsor a child in need of help….

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1 Comment

  • Amy says:

    Wonderful! Aidan and Clay can now swap stories. Our “daughter” Fiorella is in Peru. We have been sponsoring her for 2 years. She is slightly younger than them. I LOVE getting her letters and drawings. She is so loving to us, a mystery family thousands of miles away! She always signs it with “hundreds of hugs”. She has stated how much her and her family appreciate our sponsorship (and she is only 10!) The boys have written her personal notes, created birthday cards and sent her crafted origami. I LOVE this connection we have with someone, somewhere else in the world. The best part is knowing that she is learning about God too, and that all of this comes from him, through us. I am excited for this venture for you. *I just love your family*