In my last post, I wrote about the struggles and lessons we had from living at Matthew House. This post is about the fear I had leaving.
We knew we were done. We had fulfilled our commitment to living at Matthew House for a year and knew we needed to rest and refocus. Our kids were getting older and I was ready to start homeschooling and have another baby. But with all of that to look forward to, I was apprehensive to leave. We had been living a ministry we couldn’t hope to maintain once we had moved to our own home. We knew we needed to take a step back from front-line compassion work and so we stepped into the Compassion Coordinator role at church. It was nice to facilitate compassion activities for a change. But I was already anxious we were going to lose the nerve to take risks. We had bought a home in suburbia and the appliances and furniture to go with it. We had been living so simply for so long it felt stressful to have so many new things all at once. We were expecting our third child in three months. I was aware of the lure of comfort, the normalcy of it and the necessity of taking a break from some commitments when you have a new baby.
But I felt (and still feel) that compassion is like a muscle that will atrophy if you don’t exercise it. We had been fit when we moved into Matthew House. We had a lot of momentum from our home church and were well-placed in life to make such a move. We had been living in a two-bedroom apartment paying month-to-month rent. We didn’t have a lot of stuff to move or a lot of logistical considerations around housing and bills. We were nimble and we liked it.
But now I was worried we would be weighed down by our own comfort and possessions. Would we be willing to make a significant move like Matthew House again? We did need time away to focus on our family and regroup. Eugene Cho says compassion begins in your homes and families, and he’s right. But it doesn’t end in your homes and families, either. There is no caveat in the Bible that says parents of small children are exempt from participating in or prioritizing compassion. Sorry, moms and dads, we are not off the hook.
But because we focus on “doing compassion” instead of “living compassion” we end up limiting our creativity when it comes to including our children in being the hands and feet of Jesus. This came home to me when Bruxy and Sarah talked about youth as being the church – not the “church of tomorrow,” just the church. We can begin equipping our kids to live compassionately now. We don’t have to wait until they are old enough to help out in a soup kitchen.
Now, I’m no stranger to the challenges of trying to find compassion activities that allow for kids to participate. Many organizations don’t allow kids for safety reasons. Fundraisers are great, but it is still a fairly abstract idea to raise money to give to an organization to help find a solution to a social or medical issue. I will say I enjoy the rallying of community around a cause and the kids can feel that as well.
But the best way I’ve found is to really practice compassion every day: Bringing a meal to a new mom, shoveling a driveway, bringing in a neighbours garbage cans, picking up the recycling that is blowing down the street. Try to create and take advantage of opportunities to make your kids aware of the needs of other people. Demonstrate that other people are worth our inconvenience, our time, our talents. Put your neighbours needs above your own and expect them to learn to do the same. We have to train ourselves to notice others. We also have to learn how to accept the help of others – even ask for it. Your kids need you to set this example, too. If we really are a community, then we belong to each other.
So, if you’re a parent and you’re wondering how to “do compassion” with a kid in tow – remember, compassion opportunities happen every day. You don’t even need to get in the car.
For a couple of great books to help talk to your kids about compassion, check out Tim Huff’s Compassion Series: The Cardboard Shack Beneath the Bridge: Helping Kids Understand Homelessness , It’s Hard Not To Stare: Helping Kids Understand Disabilities, and coming in 2016, The Honour Drum: Sharing First Nation Truths with Children.