How do we learn empathy and compassion? Is it nature, nurture, or a gift? Since becoming a mother, I have spent so much time pondering how to cultivate compassionate hearts in my boys. Now, I’ve come to realize that they are the ones teaching me. I believe that God, the Father of Compassion (2nd Corinthians 1:3), has put compassion in all of our hearts, and it is our job as parents to show our children how to listen and recognize His voice above all others. I will save my absolute favorite WOW moment for later this month but just know it’s coming!
Before introducing compassion, take time to prepare your heart. My go-to book for this topic is Tattoos on the Heart. Despite Charlie’s pleas to STOP reading the book that was causing me so many tears, both happy and sad, I finished it and have never been the same.
When I was ready to introduce compassion, we went outside with popsicles and plopped down in the grass. “Does anyone notice something different about me?”
“GLASSES!” they all shouted!
“Yes, did you know that compassion starts with our eyes? Tell me what sounds you hear in the word compassion. Let’s count the syllables.” (Always throwing in practice for those pre-literacy skills!)
“Having eyes to SEE people that might feel differently than we do is the beginning of compassion! After we notice or see someone, we look at their faces to get an idea of how they might FEEL. Are they sad, disappointed, hurt, lonely, nervous? Lastly, we DO something to help them. This is compassion!”
Then, I gave the boys the following examples (you can see I use notes because no matter how much I prepare I always leave something out if I don’t have it written down!):
Justice, how do you feel when you see Banks fall and scrape his knee on the driveway? What do you bring him to make him feel better? That’s compassion!
Banks, when you see a man on the side of the road, holding a sign asking for food, how do you think they feel? What does it make you want to do? That’s compassion!
Chip, what if you’re on the playground and notice someone standing by themselves looking sad as they watch others play? How do you think they feel? What can you do to show compassion?
We discussed each of these examples, and I read them the verses from Matthew 25:37-40,
“Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'”
“Do you see that when we show compassion to others, it’s actually to GOD? It’s all for Him!” Ronnie Wilson’s Gift by Francis Chan depicts this truth perfectly.
“How does Jesus show us compassion?” I asked the boys.
Then we wrapped things up. “I am so excited to spend this month talking about different ways WE can show compassion, and do you know the amazing thing Ephesians 2:10 tells us? God has already planned these things for us to do! They are specially made for YOU and YOU and YOU. I can’t wait to see what God has in store for us!
God, give us eyes of compassion! In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
Introducing the WOW word typically takes around five minutes, much longer than that and I lose my 3 and 4 year old. After a little play time, I asked the boys if they wanted to start their memory verse or hear a Bible story. They chose a Bible story, and before I knew it, they were painting outside as they listened to the parable of The Good Samaritan and making their own illustrations.
Don’t forget to always point the WOW Word back to Jesus! After reading the story of The Good Samaritan, wonder with your child. “I wonder how Jesus shows us compassion today?”
And when you are ready…our memory verse!