It just washed over me. Could I ever imagine being in that position? Alone, trying to parent three kids and provide for them. I went around the block and came back around a little more prepared to respond.
Now, this is not a normal sight around here, and I realize that she could have been a scammer (or addict, or have mental health issues, whatever), but I could not just drive by. I turned into a blubbering fool. She had a bag to collect groceries and was thankful for what little I had to give her and the prayer I offered quickly so as not to hold up traffic.
~Lord, let me never grow callous to the needs around me!~
This past month we have been digging deeper into compassion, and God has been raising our awareness of the needs around us and the poverty throughout the world. As I have spent more time thinking about it, I have realized the need to help craft in my children's hearts a heart of compassion.
How we began . . .
1. Talk about it. Simple conversations, prompted naturally. Needs vs. wants. Poverty through history (we are reading about slavery and the holocaust right now). We are also learning much from a You Version app bible study called "Compassion: 30 Days of Heartwork."
2. Personalize poverty. Through the talking and learning about real people, it makes poverty come alive in a way that can't be ignored. Watch videos and read books about those impacted by poverty, and helped to overcome poverty.
3. Make it practical. The bible study encouraged us to sleep on the floor and take cold showers. This week we will even adjust our normal menu and eat beans and rice for multiple meals and skip snacks. Our kids will not really know hunger, but in the doing we begin to relate and process and develop empathy.
4. Give! We have a "heartwork" jar on our counter. As kids do chores or find/make money over these few weeks it goes in the jar. At the end I said I will double whatever is in there and we will together decide the recipient.
They have excitedly talked about possibilities :
- give toward a well
- bring it to a packing session at Feed My Starving Children
- send a special gift to our sponsored kids.
We also prayed about and decided to sponsor another child through Compassion. God worked it out amazingly, the next day we received in the mail a "random" mailing from them asking us to consider sponsoring another child with a picture enclosed. Now we have 7 year old Olivia in Togo, 17 year old Orquidea in Domincan Republic, 5 year old Cesar in Mexico, and 11 year old "Harry" in Rwanda. Looking forward to getting to know him.
5. Go! I haven't written much about this here, but a little over a year ago we went on a family mission trip to Mexico. We spent about 5 days just south of the US border and every child from our 7 year old through our 21 year old played a part in blessing people throughout that area. I would strongly encourage everyone to look for an experience like that, and we hope to spend another vacation that way sometime.
6. Pray. We do this daily, but this coming week as we will be eating less, we will be praying more and I have started a list for this extended prayer time:
- For the physical and spiritual health of our sponsored kids
- For the upcoming elections in Nigeria (a friend is a missionary there and requested this for their volatile country)
- For our church. We are going through an unbelievably difficult season. I'm feeling pressed to pray for humility for all involved.
- For a continually growing heart of compassion
- Prayerfully read through Isaiah 58
All of these activities have definitely given me a heightened awareness of the needs around (hence my ridiculously emotional display giving this needy mom the little I had on hand). And, although sometimes they comment on the daily devotion sounding like a promo for Compassion International, our kids have started to respond positively as well and have shown some increased gratitude and a desire to help those with less.
Compassion is such a critical emotion and personality trait that can be modeled and developed. Just in these few weeks I have seen it lived out, and I pray it would only increase as the years roll by.