Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Teaching Our Kids to Care

Today was a day for funerals.

One in our nation's capital, comprised of a Funeral Mass at Holy Trinity Catholic Church and then a Memorial Service at none other than the Kennedy Center, where 1,500 people ("a generous slice of New York and Washington royalty,") paid tribute to Tim Russert.

And another one here. As sixty people gathered to honor a beloved father and grandfather, I couldn't help but think how similar, in spite of their differences, the two occasions were.

But this isn't another "Death: The Great Equalizer" post.

For the matter on my heart today, though not for the first time, has been kindled anew by the image of two middle school girls at the local funeral. One, a granddaughter of the man who died. The other, the girl who sat beside her throughout the service, arm around her shoulder in loving support, comforting her in her grief.

It's not that they are close friends. Just two girls who are in youth group together.

But this encouraged me. Because my girl was the giver of comfort.

Now lest you think I have done some grand thing or that she is a perfect child, let me say for the record: while she does have a very tender heart, she is a Middle School Girl. She joined others of her gender in the Sin Nature Bonus Line that was handing out Eye Rolls, Sighs, and Attitudes. And her room is still not clean. (I'll cut her a little slack since we were out of town for 10 days.)

No, God's hand was definitely in this today.

But it did reinforce a soapbox passion of mine: that we teach our kids to care for others.

Firstly, they have to see us do it. And that often means taking them with us as we deliver a meal, hug a friend, attend a visitation or funeral.

Then, we need to give them opportunities to care. They can sign a card for a Sunday School teacher or neighbor who is in the hospital or has lost a loved one. They can say "I'm sorry about your granddad" to a friend. And learn that it's okay if the friend cries. And reap the blessing that comes from ministering in such a way.

A few months ago, another girl in the youth group lost her grandfather. As the oldest grandchild, she was the apple of his eye and was utterly devastated. At the funeral home visitation the night before the funeral, you should have seen the way her face lit up when she saw my girl walk in, someone her age who had come just for her. How glad we were that we had chosen to go.

I don't have it all together by any means. I mess up every day. But for a few moments today, I saw a glimpse that God can give a 12-year-old girl wisdom beyond her years to minister to a friend and He thereby blessed both of them.

I'm so glad I didn't leave her at home.


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A Stone Gatherer said...

Oh I so love those glimpsies! I thank God when he shows me how he is working in my little sinners hearts! I so agree about teaching them to show compassion and support! Last summer Bekah collected pop cans for the homeless, this summer she is going to do a bake sale to send bibles to foreign countries (if you mother would get busy and help her bake!)

Tracy said...

What a gift straight to your heart! There is truly nothing like seeing your child's tender heart comforting others. Thanks for sharing this sweet glimpse.


Angela said...

It is great that your daughter was there for her friend.

Xandra@Heart-of-Service said...

After meeting her, I'm not surprised at her loving actions. I think the tendency as parents is to shelter our children from the perceived ugliness of the world, and in doing so, we miss so many chances for teaching the lesson of compassion and empathy.

I'm so glad you didn't leave her at home too!


Sarah@Life in the Parsonage said...

What a great reminder to instill in our children that sense of compassion and comforting others!

What a great girl you have :)

Anonymous said...

AWWWW! She sounds so sweet. I didn't realize we had girls the same age. Just another reason I wish we lived closer!


sara said...

That brought tears to my eyes as I envisioned that picture. Also, because I have been able to glimpse moments like that with my children and it just makes your heart swell.

Genny said...

What a beautiful post. And thank you for the reminder that they need to see us model it first.

Anonymous said...

Such a great reminder that caring, thoughtful kids do exist. Your post reminded me of the importance of giving my kids opportunities to demonstrate that care. I may not have thought to take one of my kids to the funeral of a grandparent who died. But when you wrote that the girls face lit up when she saw your daughter, that reminded my of how important it is to give our kids chances to encourage and lift up their friends.

Anonymous said...

It's so often the smallest thing, the tiniest effort on our part that means so much to others. I've been taking care of a friend's daughters because it's her "bad" chemo week. I know I can do this simple thing - care for her children and allow her to rest. So little effort for me, so much benefit for her. When I see FavoriteSon play with the older daughter, the patience he shows, it encourages me so much. When I see PinkGirl defend her when other kids make fun, I am so proud. (the older daughter was diagnosed as autistic, but after years of therapy, she is exceeding her doctor's expectations).