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Teaching our children to bring the light of goodness to a dark world.
Melissa Work told her six-year-old son Blake to clean up his room. Blake wasn’t happy and told his mother that there were way too many toys to pick up.
“Toys are your blessings,” his mother said, explaining that that there are many kids who don’t have any toys at all.
Blake felt badly for these kids and decided to take action. On January 16th, Blake set up a free toy stand in front of his Floridian home and give away his toys to children who didn’t have any.
He sat for a few hours in the hot sun but nobody came.
His mom posted an ad on some local websites. Blake finally had a visitor who was thrilled to take a toy for his grandson in Belize. Another family came and explained to Melissa that they did not have much. All they wanted were some books for their 18-month-old son. Blake ran into his house to get some more books. When his kindergarten teacher stopped by, Blake gave her the rest of his toy stand, so that kids with good behavior can earn them.
After six hours, Blake’s day of giving was over. He had even taken his nap right next to the stand to be sure that he wouldn’t miss a thing.
“His selflessness is inspiring,” Melissa said. “It makes us so proud to know that he is catching what we are trying to teach, that kindness to even one person can change the world.”
How do we teach our kids to open their hearts, feel the pain of others and respond by doing good?
Get out of your bubble:
We live in a selfie world. Our children have learned to focus on themselves. We try to shield them from disappointment and pain. It becomes easy to grow self-centered and selfish. We forget how to see others in our limited vision.
Be sure to help your child get out of his bubble. If he is fortunate enough to have talent, toys, or even time, help him understand that he is fortunate to have been given blessings. Now he must contemplate how to use these blessings to help others and then act.
A bar mitzvah aged boy whose parents I teach loves sports. He decided to collect bats, mitts and hockey sticks for kids who could not afford to buy their own. The joy on his face when he delivered the gear was indescribable.
Feel for others:
Don’t be afraid to have your child open his heart and feel the pain of another.
When I was a little girl, many people would pour out their problems to my parents, the Rabbi and Rebbetzin of the congregation. I recall once having my parents tell us to say psalms for a child who was ill. A visitor watched the scene and said that she was afraid we would get upset.
I’ll never forget my mother’s response and the fire in her voice as she spoke: “Some children cry for licorice. Others for chocolate or toys. My children? My children will cry for the pain of another.”
Giving a kind word to one who seems sad, visiting a lonely neighbor or relative, inviting a child who is left out or new to the class opens up our children’s hearts to the struggles that others go through. When we feel for others we become mindful of their hurts. We help our children break out of the shell that a comfortable life brings. Even a warm smile can lift someone’s spirit.
We are our children’s greatest role models. If we wish to raise children who are kind we must exert ourselves and sometimes reach beyond our own comfort zones. This means being nice to people who may be different than us, helping others instead of looking away and not being content to simply care about ourselves.
Sometimes we overlook those who are closest to us. We reach out and feel for everyone but our spouses, children or parents. Those we are supposed to love most shouldn’t think they matter least. How is it that we have kind words, endless patience and time in abundance except when it comes to the people we live with?
We can teach our children that they have the power to illuminate this world through kindness.