As any proud cheeseball, I live for love. While we cherish guiding our children to learn about everything from volcanoes to poetry, nothing is more important to us than teaching our children how to love others. Unconditionally. Without boundaries or rules or prejudices. Whole-hearted. Love.
John and I are often talk about how to teach our children to look through a life lens that says “It’s not about you.” (And it’s not about the Wii). It takes time, practice, modeling, role playing, and a variety of experiences to guide them beyond the shadow of themselves. An ongoing topic of trial and error.
Our kids are rocking their elementary grade cards (yippee), but nothing makes us happier than seeing them connect with others…helping the new kid, sitting with the child at lunch who is learning english, helping a shy classmate stand up to a bully and later thinking of a way to fill the bully’s bucket. Living a loving life with courage and compassion. Purpose. Connection. Automatic love. A love reflex. Love oozing out of their ears. Love.
So how do you teach that? I don’t know all the answers, but here’s what we TRY to do. We look at sharing love in 3 places: home, local, and global.
It starts in your home. Taking care of each other. Mutual Respect. Manners. Kindness. Not grabbing the first cookie for yourself (I struggle with that one). Praying for each other. Game Nights. Team cleaning the house (I struggle with that too). Learning to be happy for each other. Asking each other “How can I help?” Studying love leaders of the world like Jesus, Martin Luther King Jr, Mother Teresa, etc. Pointing out ways friends, family, teachers, and strangers are helpful and loving. **And, let’s keep it real, there are plenty of days that go by and we merely kept the children alive. No grand life lessons as we drown in the responsibilities of our careers and the logistics of home and soccer practice…and the latest episode of Survivor. But that’s life. No worries.
This is where you really stretch your child’s brain and heart to think outside themselves and their home. We have found a lot of opportunities for family friendly volunteering through our church such as helping with the food pantry, cleaning an inner city charter school, building homes, or participating in a reverse offering. But, loving doesn’t have to be big. Teaching your children to serve and love can be as simple as telling the school custodian thank you by name or delivering cookies to your neighbors. And, when your gracious 80 year old neighbor snow blows the driveway, bring him over a homemade card;)
While you are loving at home and in your local community, go bigger. Go global! God made this big, beautiful, world to explore and the people in it to extend our love. Love has no boundaries, including geographical ones. And, what a cool way to teach your children geography, culture, and a dozens of other ideas woven into service!
I’m leaving you with an AWESOME idea called a Birthday Campaign from my amazing cousin, Matt, who is a walking, talking, beaming ray of love…as is his beautiful wife and 3 kids. Matt runs Project 25:40, an online ministry that promotes non-profit organizations that give the basic necessities of life to those in need, both physically & spiritually, and who are making a difference in our world for Christ.
Here’s how a birthday campaign works: Every year, Matt and his Project 25:40 colleague, JT, raise money for an organization in honor of their birthday age. Well, happy 34th birthday boys! Their goal is to raise $3400 to build waters well through Water4Togo.org. While they make this sizeable birthday donation, they also spread the love through promoting a great organization while modeling giving hearts to all those around them.
My mind is spinning with how to apply this whole concept into our home, and I can’t wait to share Matt’s project at our next dinner time… likely huddled around our kitchen island possibly eating something quick and not ideal. We’ll all pile in around the computer to watch this video. We’ll look up Togo and research water wells. Then we’ll make our donation together. Hit Send. Sending birthday wishes. Sending a message to our children. Sending help. Sending love.
Here’s to love,