Kathy Schwartz

John Donne wrote, “No man is an island ...”

And how right he was. We live in this world with more than 7 billion other people. We are not alone.

So we need to cultivate in our children the love of others.

Children seem to focus on the world in relation to how everything affects them, not others around them.

Compassion is defined as the ability to recognize suffering in others, accompanied by the urge to help. The reward is simply helping without benefit to yourself.

The need to teach our children compassion is paramount to the world today. The answer to the many trials and tribulations our nation and the world are facing may lie in the simple lesson of compassion.

Children often see others in need, but feel helpless in ways to meet those needs. We need to empower our children with the knowledge that even the smallest effort makes a difference.

Children have big hearts and those hearts are easily swayed. Give your child the feeling everyone gets when they have done something for someone else, for the sheer fact that person needed our help. That feeling only grows with experience.

In some instances, children take cues from the adults around them. They listen to the words spoken in haste or in judgment of others less fortunate. We need to set the positive example and discuss with our children situations that they will experience. Parents need to answer the tough questions and search out answers.

There are many opportunities in our community that lend to teaching children about compassion. There are homeless families, food banks, shut-ins, nursing homes and those suffering from illness or loss. There are children that are ostracized and bullied at school. A child can reach out and do a small kindness for those less fortunate than themselves.

Search out situations that your child can recognize a need and do something about it. Remember, it does not have to be a large costly solution. A kind word, an offer to help with yard work, time given to just talk with someone, or including a fellow student that stands alone on the playground can be a compassionate act. Discuss with your child how it felt to be compassionate. That feeling will be a catalyst for other kind deeds. Ask your children for ideas. They just might surprise you.

I remember helping my mother prepare May Day baskets and placing them on less fortunate neighbors’ door steps, always running to the car so they would not see who left it. My mom would say, “It’s not important they know who gave it to them. What’s important is that we did it.”

Find your May Day basket. In these trouble times, it is not hard to find someone that is in need and someone that is worse off than you. Sometimes if we focus on others, our troubles seem less. Our children need to know the joy and satisfaction that selfless giving can bring. A lesson we all should embrace.

Kathy Schwartz is a retired elementary school teacher and serves as a parent education consultant.

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