Our desire is to teach kids to have a serving heart both here at home and towards those living in faraway places. And although we can’t always reach out to those across the ocean, we can reach out to those down the street. And what a great place to start!
A friend was telling me about a missionary to Brazil. “She’s one of the most effective missionaries I know,” she told me. My friend’s praise was so effusive; I asked her how she could gauge the missionary’s effectiveness in Brazil – since she had never been to South America.
“Oh, “ she told me. “That’s easy to see. Look at the way she treats people when she’s on home assignment? Someone who is that caring to the people in her church and neighborhood will be caring to those whom she serves overseas.”
The truth is we need to teach our kids to have a missional heart towards people in faraway places and the people down the street. All are “precious in His sight.”
For instance, how about that lady who lives in the corner house? The one your family seldom sees because she’s mostly bedridden, a victim of an ongoing disease?
Or, what about that boy in your son’s class at school (or at church) who tires easily because he’s going through chemo?
Or, that neighbor girl who has a disability and doesn’t play with the other children much because of her physical limitations?
Sometimes when a person (whether adult or child) is first diagnosed with cancer or some other disease, friends and acquaintances surround her with love and concern (and an online funding account). But often, the pain continues for months while the friends fade away. Or in other cases, a person may be born with a disease or disability and faces a lifetime of being surrounded by people who can do things he can’t.
Some people learn to accept their disability with joy, courage, and the ability to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds, but other people find themselves in a lonely place whether temporarily or permanently.
God tells us in His Word, the Bible, that we are to help the hurting. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. (Galatians 6:10)
What a great serving opportunity for your family. What a great way for you to teach your children to help others as you take the opportunity to do good.
But how? You may be a little hesitant. You don’t know how to relate to that bedridden neighbor or know what your son can do for the classmate facing chemo.
- Ask. Don’t ask what you can do, but offer a specific idea of what you would like to do. “I know your mother is confined to the house. We would like to make her some cookies. Is that ok? Does she like oatmeal cookies?” “My son would like to spend some time with Caleb. Could they play a game or watch a movie together?” “Our family is going to the museum on Friday and would like your family to go with us. We’ll help you push Clare’s wheelchair.”
- Explain. Talk to your child about the person’s limitations. “Caleb is weak and tires easily, so today’s visit will be 20 minutes. We’ll see how it goes and as he gains strength, we can make your visits longer.” “Clare needs to use a wheelchair. Walk alongside of her and talk to her about the exhibits like you would with any of your friends.”
- Understand. Sometimes when someone is sick or especially when the person has a disability, others talk down to her. Explain to your child that just because Clare is in a wheelchair doesn’t mean she can’t laugh at a joke, have a great conversation about sharks, or ace a science exam.
- Commit. Unless something happens that would discourage you from continuing to serve – e.g. you are asked not to bake any more cookies or visit again – plan weekly or monthly contact with the person. Have your children draw pictures for the lady on the corner, arrange times for your son to visit his classmate, continue to include the girl who uses a wheelchair in your family activities. Reaching out just once will make the person feel like a project more than a person. Let them know that you sincerely care and want to be their friend.
Look around you.
Who is hurting?
To whom does your family have the opportunity to “do good?”