This post is coming to you later than I’d like, dear readers! Yesterday was a crazy day for the Moore fam. My dashing husband rescued a little chihuahua named, Monk and so for the afternoon we were babysitters of the sweetest dog we have ever met. Today I spent the morning getting my apartment ready for an appraisal that my landlord inflicts upon us annually and while my home smells wonderful, gleams beautifully, and is misleadingly organized, I have little hope that it’ll remain that way through the rest of the week.

On the bright side, although I’m exhausted from the effort, I’m satisfied.

At this very moment there is not a single dish or article of clothing out of place! Whoo Hoo

I am the victor in my battle against dust bunnies and grime! Hooyah

I know exactly what we’re having for dinner–and I have all the ingredients! Yum-O.

So, I’m celebrating with my favorite fall drink and blogging with some my favorite people in the world–you my readers.

Please forgive me for the delay.

Here we go with everyday ideas on compassion, social justice, or shalom–take your pick of terms– for your kiddos. A small disclaimer before we begin. I’m not some social justice expert or super theologian. I’m just a mom. I love my Jesus, I love my children and I’m excited when I get a chance to bring the two together. So all of these ideas are from my trial and error or my dreams and schemes of matchmaking.

Kids meet Jesus… isn’t he awesome?!?

Since embracing this idea that social justice is following the example of Jesus, who came to bring wholeness to the broken and peace to the war-torn, I see him in a whole new light. He’s become so much more than a loving prophet, a good teacher, or a victorious diety.

He’s my humble King, who “… knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal…and began to wash his disciples’ feet…” John 13:3-5

His confidence in who he belonged to, his conviction of his calling, and his courage to buck social mores is breathtaking. How can I keep quiet about him to my children? Why wouldn’t I pray for chances to set them up, all the while talking him up to them? And how can I bifurcate conversations about compassion from conversations about the character of God? I’ve come to believe I can’t.

So tip number one is to create space for the conversation.

I wrote a devotional for my kids on Matthew 25: 31-46 that I’m posting later on today. It might help you create space to talk about compassion. It has a pancake theme so why don’t you plan a night where you have breakfast for dinner and do the devotional together? I did this with my kids when we were planning to serve a couple of missionary friends by putting together bags of pancake mix for homeless young adults. It was one of our most productive dinner time conversations. In retrospect I wish we would have had pancakes for dinner that night. It was have been so much fun!

Bringing it Home

Once I introduced (and in most cases re-introduced) the ideas of compassion, I found I needed natural, everyday ways to bring the point home. To me gathering the kids to visit a shelter or nursing home is a great activity, but I worry about it’s sustainability in the long term. I figured if I can find ways throughout my day to communicate compassion that it’ll become as natural as breathing for us to be aware of and care for the needs of others.

This leads me to how I go about instilling these values. These tips can be used for just about any value you have, but I’m sharing them from my experience on teaching my kids about God’s shalom.

Deuteronomy 6:7 has been most influential to me.

Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

Tip Two: Adopt an “As You Go” Attitude.

I especially love the, “walk along the road” part of this Scripture. The way it plays out in our family is adopting an attitude of “as you go”. The logical impli
cation is to talk about Jesus and in this case shalom as we go about our day. When we’re driving in the car, as I’m refereeing conflict, when I’m on the playground, no matter where I am, my eyes are opened and my heart is receptive to the Holy Spirit on how to strike up conversations about shalom.

Tip Three: Pray “As You Go”

When we see homeless people in Harvard Square, at the intersection right before Route 2 near the Alewife T station, out front of Park Street Church, and in Porter Square, I try to lead my kids in a prayer for the people we see. Sometimes I forget and Trinity reminds me at bedtime to pray. But this small action from the comfort of my minivan has given my children eyes for those in need. We haven’t done this, but you can sponsor a child through Compassion International and lead your family through nightly prayer for him/her. One thing I’d like to do is sponsor one for each of my children, assign them a child, and praywith them for their assigned child. Prayer is the most important activity in teaching compassion.

Tip Four: Serve “As You Go” With Your Interests and Gifts.

My first encounter with community service was on an episode of the Cosby Show. Theo got in some sort of trouble, I can’t remember what, but I’m sure Cockroach had something to do with it. Claire and Heathcliff, ever wise and resourceful, sentenced Theo to delivering “meals on wheels” at the crack of dawn, putting his newly acquired license to good use. And Theo was much put-upon.

Claire and Cliff were onto to something–while I don’t agree with using community service as a form of discipline–I totally get what they were doing. They recognized an asset that Theo had to offer and tailored his service around that. This is how I think through ways our family can serve. What assets, skills, gifts, or interests do we have that can bless someone in need?

In a same post as the devotional today, I am going to include a link to an “as you go” worksheet I wrote for you and your kids to do together. Hopefully it will help you discern how to intersect your kids’ interests and gifts with opportunities to serve.

Tip Five: Look for ways to serve “As You Go” through your community.
You wouldn’t know it from talking to me, but I’m a very shy person. I’m great in a group, but get me one on one and I’m awkward as all get out. I stutter, look away, talk incredibly too fast, and say the weirdest things! I actually said a new friend, ” I really like you, I almost want to send you a note that says, ‘will you be my friend? Check yes or no'” True story! She laughed–thank God. But I was kicking myself in the butt! Really Osheta?!?! You broke out your middle school insecurities right here? In this Panera? Epic fail.

I say all this to say, that talking to new people is a daunting move for me. But, sometimes we’re so insular in our Cantebridgian community that it’s hard for me to find new creative ways to serve. So “as I go” about my day I try to meet new people and learn their needs. For instance, there is an older lady across the way from us that lives by herself. When I’m cleaning up the kitchen after making soup, stew, or stoup, sometimes I’ll send a tupperware with my kids over to her so she doesn’t have to cook for herself that night. There is a little girl who doesn’t have siblings who loves to play with Trinity. This little girl can get on my last nerve, but sometimes I encourage Trinity to invite her over just so that she’s no longer lonely or wandering the neighborhood to find something to do.

One way we got to know our neighbors better was we delivered chocolate chip muffins and gallons of milk to each person in our row of townhouses. One neighbor actually thanked us because they were out of milk and he couldn’t make his morning coffee.

This also extends to your kids’ schools.

I know the family liaison at our school by name and every once in a while she’ll send an email about winter gear needs or food needs in our school community. When we can, we contribute to these needs and all the while I’m talking to my kids about meeting the needs of others.

I decided to make a point to know this person better when I let an opportunity to help a family in our school slip by. One day, Tyson realized that one of the kids at lunch didn’t have anything to eat–not even a school lunch. He asked him why and he found out that this little boy didn’t have groceries at home. The next day I sent Tyson with an extra sandwich for the boy. I asked Tyson to get the boy’s address so we could deliver groceries to his family… of course Tyson forgot or the boy didn’t give the address. Either way, I spent a good part of that week worrying about this family’s need when there was a person on the campus that could have help me serve them– the family liaison. I didn’t know there was a person in the building that could serve as a liaison between me an this family in need so I let this chance to help pass by. Now, if I hear that there is a need from any of my kids, I can bring their name to this person and know that either I can help or she will put them in connection with the right services.

Classrooms are always in need so maybe you can commit to supplying your kids’ favorite or most often used supplies. If your child’s nose is constantly running in the winter, then maybe you can go together to buy lots of boxes of kleenex for the classroom.

As the school year progresses there will be needs in the c
lassroom, I’m hoping to include my kids in meeting them.

I’m sure you’re thinking, ‘how is this social justice?’ Remember social justice in our working definition is creating wholeness where there is brokenness. A classroom can’t function well if most of the students are out because they’re passing the common cold back and forth like a ping pong game. Your contribution of purell or klennex will bring wholeness to that brokenness. Thinking of social justice in this way demystifies the endeavor a bit and makes it easier to have these types of conversations so when we get opportunities to serve in a more organized manner such as a shelter, my kids experience it as just one more expression of shalom.

I realize that most of these suggestions apply to older kids. When my kids were toddlers and in preschool, I did most of my teaching on this topic through letting them hear me pray for people in need, including them in meal deliveries for new moms and shut ins in our community, and letting them place coins in the tins of the homeless. Each time I would talk to them about Jesus’ love for people in need and his desire to meet everyone’s needs. That’s as far as I took it because I primarily wanted to help write these truths on their hearts so that when they get older, they’ll joyfully join me in service. Not feel put-upon like Theodore Huxtable.

Again, these are just what has worked for me in the past. I’m still on this journey, so I’d love for you to comment on ways that you’ve included your kids in creating wholeness where there is brokenness.

Ok…the kids are home from school so I better go be a mommy. Look for that devotional either tonight or first thing tomorrow morning. On Friday, I’ll post a review on “The Good Fun Book” and Boston area community service opportunities.

Enjoying my temporarily clean home,