I have always believed life's greatest lessons will never be found in a book. The ability to love, to give, and to feel, encompass the profound experiences that make life worth living. Instilling the values that touch lives can be the most important thing we ever teach our children.
Almost two weeks ago, my 22 year-old daughter was diagnosed with Stage III ovarian cancer. This hit our family hard and not just immediate family, but our extended family as well. The first question everybody asked was, "What can we do?" Feelings of helplessness were replaced with ideas and action. My sweet nephew got his mind thinking how expensive cancer treatments were going to be and knew he had to help. With the help of his brother, he formulated a plan and followed through. They were going to raise money to help with treatment. A trip to the dollar store yielded treats and popsicles which they would sell to raise money.
How did these boys know what exactly was the right thing? They have been taught at their mother's knee. When neighbors and family members are sick, they are asked to help their mom take meals. When they suffered illness in their own family, they watched as friends and family brought them meals and gifts. They have been taught that what goes around, comes around in a good way.
When all was over, the awesome boys got to see the fruit of the labor by presenting their precious gift to their cousin, my beautiful daughter. She has received a lot of love and support as well as numerous gifts, but her cousin's unselfish act touched us all in ways we can not express.
How can we teach our children compassion and service. These are some of the things that have worked for our family.
- Talk about how others feel when they experience trials.
- Encourage children to find the good things about others instead of the bad.
- Involve your children in acts of service. If you make a meal for a neighbor, have them go with you to deliver it.
- If your children aren't too young, take them to volunteer at a soup kitchen, a community event, neighborhood clean up, etc.
- Have them apologize verbally or through a letter when they have been mean to others.
- Never rationalize or let your child rationalize mean behavior.
- Praise them when they do nice things.
- Lead by example. When they see you performing kind acts, they will mirror your actions.
Thank you Austin and Cody. You have reminded me to appreciate life's great lessons. Your compassion and love has strengthened me and your cousin, Kalina. I get goosebumps just thinking about it.