10 February 2008

Compassionate Kids – A Reply to Sara

I have been really excited to be turned on to some terrific blogs through the Emerging Women blog. It is so fantastic – the theology, the struggles, the encouragement, the freedom to explore faith, "tip sacred cows", and the amazing sisterhood that is found there has been a real joy lately.

One of my favorite new blogs from this blog ring is The Carnival In My Head. Perky author, Cathy posted about When One of Us Hurts, We all Hurt. She shared her thoughts about the book A Thousand Splendid Suns and how it explores the plight of Afghani women. She said how she was so overwhelmed at times she had to put the book down, and it made me sad. Sad because I realized how desensitized I have become to the overwhelming sadness, pain and sorrow in the world. I shared how as a child my parents assured me that there wasn't anything that I alone could do to help when I was moved to agonizing tears over hungry children in the world. In the conversation that followed, another commenter asked me how I thought as parents we could nurture this heart of compassion, this connectivity to the human experience the world over, and this inability to shrug at injustice and suffering in the world. (She may have just said "what's a mom to do?" but this is what I read between the lines.) What follows is what started out as a 'reply comment' that turned into a post of its own.

I think that it comes down to respectful parenting - which to me is conjoined to our family breaking out of the traditional church which not only de-values women but also children. When my kids are upset, I don't minimize it anymore. I don't rub it off. We feel it together. We hurt, we pray, we cry. My oldest was about 11 when our church was taking a group on a mission trip to an area in Mexico suppressed by extreme poverty. Because she knew that she could not go, she decided to do what she could. She saved her allowance and money she found here and there, and took it to the guy who was leading the trip - a very activist, compassionate type - and handed him this baggie of change, and asked him to do something nice for the children when he went to Mexico. It was THE delight of her life when he came back and showed her pictures of the children eating ice cream that SHE bought. It didn't save the world - but it made the lives of some children better even if for only five minutes. I think if we could focus more there – something small we can do, we are so less likely to be overwhelmed.

If we let our children's hearts of compassion be engaged, and step out of the way I think we can harness the power that will change the world five minutes at a time. This doesn't mean we have to foot the bill behind every idea they have - but support it, help them, give them opportunities to earn money or help them find resources.

Letting your children grow into compassionate, aware, human beings that care about others and the world around them is a risk. Sometimes it means that people will take advantage of their caring hearts. Sometimes they will be used for their generous natures. Sometimes they will be vulnerable to others. You can't teach discernment, but you can model it if you choose to live out loud outside of your own head and let them know why you are doing something or not doing it. And sometimes, we will model it wrong, but as a parent I have chosen to let my kids learn from my mistakes – and boy is there ample opportunity for that. Just yesterday I was in the mall with my daughters and I said, "I have a hard time enjoying the mall when I know there are people in the world that don't have anything to eat today." Yep, I am a real party pooper that way. But, in typical teenage girl fashion, the gushed that they loved the mall. They're allowed. I didn't shame them for it though I secretly felt the urge to regurgitate that I birthed these often superficial beings. I just let them be who they are – and hope that I can learn from them, and they can learn from me. As a wise sage once said, "we're all in this together". Or maybe that was High School Musical. Dang! Sound theology is everywhere.


  1. Julie, this is a phenomenal and encouraging post. Thanks for sharing it.

  2. thanks for taking the time to reply to my question so thoughtfully! I hear very much what you're saying about the traditional church not valuing children--this is one of my great struggles as a parent at the moment . . . my husband is the *pastor* in a mainline church, and the community does not give them as much as I would wish as a parent. At the same time, I truly believe that we can't have the committed, kid-oriented, women-oriented, emerging, etc. wing of Christendom just bail on our traditional denominations . . .

    But that aside, God has blessed me with daughters who are very different people from myself. Trying to figure out how to respect their perspectives and communicate all I want to as a parent, both recognizing that they are individuals and at the same time sorting out the fact that children have opinions and approaches that are . . . well, childish.

    Thank you for reminding me back to the basics--that taking the time to cry and pray is always a first step. To acknowledge the wrongs as real.

    My daily prayer for my girls is that they would grow up fully into the women that God intends them to be. that they would know how much he loves them and love him in return. I'm thankful that his accomplishing these things will be for them, as for any of us, all by his grace and that it does not depend on my inadequate parenting.

  3. julie, thanks for your thoughts! so glad you took the time to put them here instead of just in a comment! i agree with you, to just nurture as much as possible compassionate hearts in our children. let it be whatever it is and not squelch or minimize it or even expect it to be a certain way (i do that, wishing they would care more about this or that and miss that they actually do care about that and this). take care and look forward to more conversations in the future...

  4. Your post, and you approach, remind me very much of one of my favorite quotes by Mother Theresa. "We can do no great things. We can only do small things with great love."

    It reminds me that every "little" thing we do DOES make a difference, and that I want my children to know that too.


Awaiting your words......
♥ Juls ♥