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Love in Action: How to Raise Compassionate Kids

[Guest Post by Cara Davis]

A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I went to a Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant concert.

It was called A Celebration of Songs & Hymns. Between classic songs like “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” and “It Is Well,” each shared about the staying power of hymns and their ability to unite us.

Amy talked about growing up attending a church in Nashville and how she couldn’t recall one sermon preached in her youth, but she remembered the songs. She also shared about how last year, she and her sisters would gather at her ailing mother’s bedside every week and sing hymns and songs, celebrating her to the other side.

One of the most powerful characteristics of loved hymns is their ability to unite us, as Christians and as generations. Do you remember the children’s songs we grew up singing? “Deep and Wide” and “Jesus Loves Me”?

There are modern worship songs for kids that are great and more in style with today’s music, but there’s something about these old classic songs that are still worth teaching and sharing with your kids. Even more importantly, sharing the scriptures they’re based upon.

Do you want your child to know what living as a Christian is all about?

John 13:35 says others will know we are Christians by our love.

What does that look like to love in today’s society?

There’s a hymn by Fred Kaan called “Help Us Accept Each Other.” It says:

Help us accept each other
As Christ accepted us;
Teach us as sister, brother,
Each person to embrace.
Be present, Lord, among us
And bring us to believe
We are ourselves accepted
And meant to love and live.

Stacye, one of my local mom friends, posted this on Facebook today, and it just felt so right to include in this post.

She wrote, “Wouldn’t we all benefit from wearing our weaknesses and our failures more openly? If we were all brave enough to do that, wouldn’t the world be a gentler place when we screw it all up? …. The screwing up is inevitable but the gentleness isn’t.”

Can we teach and show our children that we all mess up? But grace covers us?

That we don’t have to judge or correct others? We can show them kindness, gentleness, acceptance and love?

Ephesians 4:32 has the recipe for the right response: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you,” and 1 John 3:18 shows us it’s more than rhetoric. It’s action. “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” And Colossians 3:12 calls us “God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved” and compels us to “clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”

What’s it look like to be clothed with compassion, then? 

Perhaps our hymns can help us here again. “The Servant Song” calls us pilgrims and brothers and teaches about empathy as a Christian:

I will weep when you are weeping
When you laugh, I’ll laugh with you
I will share your joy and sorrow
Till we’ve seen this journey through.

But empathy, while an important emotional tool, is not the end game.

Empathy only allows us to imagine how another feels. Compassion is action. Compassion is how we respond.

Stacye, whom I mentioned above, works for Thistle Farms, a social enterprise that creates handmade gifts and is run by women who have survived lives of prostitution, trafficking, addiction, and life on the streets. The women of Thistle Farms are graduates of a residential program called Magdalene, started in 1997 by the Rev. Becca Stevens to provide housing, food, care, therapy, education and job training for survivors of sex trafficking and prostitution.

On average, the women who come through this program range in age from 20-50, were first sexually abused between 7-11, have been arrested a hundred times and have spent 12 years on the street prostituting. After entering the program, 70 percent of these women are leading a healthy, sober life two and a half years later.

What if Becca empathized with the plight of these women, but did nothing more? Compassion compelled her to offer these women a way out of their situation.

Their social media hashtag is “#loveheals.” For these women — nothing less than fierce love and acceptance brought them out.

It’s fitting then that they’ve chosen the thistle as their symbol. Their press kit explains,

“Thistles grow in the streets and alleys where the women of Magdalene and Thistle Farms walked. Considered a weed, they have a deep tap root that can shoot through thick concrete and survive drought. And in spite of a thistle’s prickly appearance, its royal, soft purple center makes it a mysterious and gorgeous flower. Being a Thistle Farmer means the world is our farm, and there is no part of creation that must be forgotten or condemned.”

Perhaps that’s the key to compassion — acknowledging that no part of God’s creation is worthless or without value. Treat everyone with their God-assigned value, even if they look like a weed.

I brought my daughter Madilyn to the Thistle Stop Café, a tea, coffee and gift shop run by Thistle Farms here in Nashville. We met several of the women who work there, and I enjoyed the atmosphere. You could tell these women work hard and support each other.

While we were eating, one of the women came over to Madilyn at the table and gave her a Thistle Farms reusable shopping bag. It meant so much to me that they would not only notice my daughter, but reach out and give her a gift.

That’s love in action, or in other words, compassion. We could all use a little more of it.

11150680_10155458171550386_7364744880635351595_nCara Davis (@carandavis) writes from her home in Inglewood, Tennessee.

 

 

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