Here are specific ideas for helping kids learn practical service to others:
A Blanket of Compassion
Our middle son, Adam, loved his blanket. If Adam was tired, Blue Blankey became his pillow. If frightened, he draped it over his head; occasionally, his light-blue buddy became a cocoon of safety.
When Adam was 4, our church sponsored a missions trip to Bosnia to provide blankets for a hospital and an orphanage. Adam was immediately convinced of the importance of this ministry because he could relate to it. "Mom, everyone needs a blanket."
We visited every thrift store I knew across three cities to buy gently used blankets. Later, Adam helped pour liquid detergent and fabric softener into our washing machine. He also helped load the dryer, fold blankets and deliver them to church. My son, wearing his own blanket like a scarf, smiled all the way home.
In Romans 12:13, Paul encourages us to "practice hospitality." Here are two families who've taught their children to share belongings with overnight guests.
1. Luisette's 4-year-old daughter, Jo-Hanna, gladly offers her room to guests but struggles to be courteous. So Luisette started "The Grace and Kindness Rule for Guests." She's instructed her daughter to give guests first choice. Jo-Hanna's countenance sometimes falls when someone chooses differently than her preference, but Luisette has heard her daughter say, "OK, grace and kindness. We will watch your movie because you are my guest, and I want you to come back and play with me."
2. Before houseguests arrived, Jackie's family would create little surprises for their visitors. In doing so, a sense of excitement grew in their home. Their family has:
- Crafted welcome notes (with a mint attached) and placed them on the beds her children were offering to company.
- Selected a favorite toy or book they wanted to share. Special toys that might get broken were temporarily stored in a safe place.
For Jackie's kids, the highlight was sleeping on the floor — "family camping," as it was called — which included spontaneous pillow fights, of course. And often her kids were caught saying, "Why can't our company stay longer?"
—compiled by Andrea Gutierrez
This article first appeared in the November/December 2010 issue of Thriving Family magazine. Copyright © 2010 by Shellie Arnold and Focus on the Family. Used by permission. ThrivingFamily.com.
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