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When Did We Stop Teaching Our Kids Compassion?

I have something to say about being a compassionate person who is trying to raise compassionate children. It doesn’t seem like it requires a conversation, except that more and more I am exposed to some form of media that shows me what we’re really made of in this world. I’ve been watching what happens online for several years (and much of it is good, very very good!). One of the things I stopped doing early on was reading comments on newspaper articles. Those seem to bring out the worst in people who have nothing better to do than spew their hate. It used to be, to me, that this was where it ended. Then, I learned about hate sites dedicated to blasting bloggers, and it’s only gotten worse. Even though I try very hard to avoid those sites, there are others that pop up and my friends, in their incredulity, share them with angst, anger, and dismay.

Perhaps I usually ignore these hateful things and fail to acknowledge them out of wanting to share more beauty or joy in the world. I spend my time looking at beautiful photography sites and places where people are sharing what they’re learning through hardship. It’s these kinds of things that help me remember to be compassionate and to share that compassion with my children. My kids are older than most of the mommyblogger set so I don’t have much interest in diapers or the breast vs. bottle debate or searching for help on getting my toddlers to nap. My sons are 17 and 20 now and my daughters are 24 and 26 and have homes of their own. If anything, I am dealing with boys who sleep until noon during the non-school season. They still have much to learn and sheltering them from some of the vitriol of the Internet is, at best, an active, full-time job.

I’m not sure if they saw all the hate that accompanied a recent news article about how the implosion of a hotel in Iberville, LA is going to adversely affect the health of residents of a nearby housing development. Or how the conversation took a 180 degree turn because the photo that went with the story showed a little boy using an iPad. Or even the well-written article online at Forbes made use of the personal history of feeling that people are cheating the system and wasting your tax dollars. All of this makes me wonder if my children know about this and are reading with discernment. I suppose that’s where these two issues come together: a mixture of compassion and discernment that enables my boys to grow up to be men with integrity.

Thinking of all of this reminded me of a time when Mason, my eldest son, was in high school. He had some disposable money on him when he and his friends all decided to head over to Baskin-Robbins to get ice cream one summer night. After they had gotten themselves their treats a man approached Mason and his group to ask for money to get gas to make it home. All of the kids he hung out with where from high school youth group and normally went out for a snack after Bible study or some other activity designed to keep them off the streets. When this man walked away from my son and his friends he left with money that only Mason had offered. I heard about it later at home because Mason wanted to know why his friends berated him for giving away his money. They told him, repeatedly, that the man was a scam artist and was going to just spend it on drugs and alcohol. My son was hurt that their cynicism convinced him that he made a mistake.

“Mason, you’re not in charge of what that man did with your ten bucks. You were in charge of giving it to him or not. You chose to give it away and that is where your responsibility ended. You still can’t even be sure what he did with it. But your part is over now.”

I don’t know if my words resonated enough to still allow him to be compassionate toward his fellow man or if he now believes that every person on the street is hustling him. That there are no real needy people left in the world. That they will always be asked to take care of “lazy” people who want to get something for nothing. I don’t know how to ensure that they will make good choices, but I can hope that they make the best one possible in whatever situation they’re in.

How do you do that? How do you trust that your words get through to your children? Did we stop teaching this altogether with the invention of the Internet that taught us such pessimism and distrust?

Photo credit to proimos


Read more from Kelly at her personal blog, Mocha Momma

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More of Kelly on Mocha Momma Has Something To Say: Talking to My Teens About the Colorado Massacre,  10 Good Parenting Things I Did

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