How do we teach compassion?

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Breathing Gratitude

Thursday, May 15, 2014


AS A mother, I am conscious about providing the right guidance for my children, especially in their character formation, which, for me, is the most important. This is one area where I am superfluous in my teaching, but hopefully not to the point of nagging.

I constantly harp on them loving each other. I tell them that my greatest joy is to see them taking care of each other. I'm sure every parent could relate with how wonderful it feels to see their children loving, enjoying and taking care of each other. It's like I can die right there and go straight to heaven!

Another character trait that I hope for them to develop is compassion. This will hopefully make them socially responsible individuals.

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But how does one teach compassion?

I feel that this has to be taught and modeled intentionally as opportunities won't come up much unless we plan them.

So in my many attempts to do this, I have exposed my children to various gift-giving activities, toy drives, and visits to the orphanage. I’ve spent a birthday at an orphanage where we shared food and toys with the children. They were also with me when my cousin Linzi Co and I organized Play Relief in Cadiz City after Yolanda struck the Visayas.

Last week, I found another opportunity when I learned that I could arrange a meeting with Janelle, our Tapulanga Foundation scholar. She has been my scholar for two years and is an incoming Grade 2 student at St. Francis of Assisi School in Silay City. (For only P1,250 monthly, you can already sponsor a child’s education! If you are interested, please visit http://www.tapulanga.org)

So I briefed my children about the purpose of the meeting. It was to give Janelle a message of love and hope as she hopefully experiences God’s love through us. My secondary purpose, which I kept to myself, was to give my children an opportunity to experience and practice compassion.

As we were making plans, one of my children was nonchalant about the whole thing. So much for teaching compassion, I thought. But then I quickly realized that showing compassion is something that I need to genuinely model. Children pick up on the authenticity of our intentions. Unless they see that our actions are done because we personally believe in it, they won’t embrace it. Teaching character traits like compassion cannot be forced on anybody.

So I decided to respect my children’s comfortable level of participation in the endeavor.

They first played in a kids’ activity center and although they weren’t highly interactive with Janelle, they at least checked on whether she and her friend were enjoying themselves.

At the restaurant, my children asked if we could order ice-cream for them and when it was time to choose books to buy, they helped them find books that were appropriate for their age.

Even though I don’t know exactly what the effects are of these experiences on them, I have faith that someday, somehow these seeds would grow and bloom. As parents we just need to keep on giving them opportunities to learn and grow in Godly character.

When asked after the meeting about how they felt about it, Gabe said “I feel like a blessing.” It was a positive experience for them, one that made them feel grateful for their own blessings and the capacity to share what they had with others.

I’m not sure if these are signs of developing compassion. All I know is that it was a great experience for us and hopefully for Janelle and her friend, too.

I was grateful for what had happened and I reminded myself that developing character traits doesn’t happen overnight. It is a long, beautiful collection of experiences that hopefully I can continue to purposefully design for them while they are young.

I finally realize that as I try to help them grow in character, I too must continue to grow in character, in order for my teaching to be authentic and thus, most effective.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on May 15, 2014.

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