A Culture of Caring | A Look at Teaching Children to Care for Others
Tim Snyder, Media Services Coordinator, Wisconsin Lutheran College
It’s been more than one year since “Mrs. Marge” sold her home and moved in with her son. “Mrs. Marge,” an elderly widow who lived alone, used to be our next-door neighbor. Her son would come by on a regular basis to look after her because of her declining health. My wife and I rarely saw her outside during the cold weather months, but in the summer “Mrs. Marge” often came out to enjoy the warm weather.
Our daughter was usually the first to notice “Mrs. Marge” sitting comfortably in her lawn chair. “I’m going to go see “Mrs. Marge,” she would announce. The sight of our little daughter sitting next to “Mrs. Marge,” deep in conversation, became a familiar one. I still don’t know what they discussed, but I know that “Mrs. Marge” looked forward to those visits. Their conversations lasted a long time, and invariably we would have to call our daughter home for supper or bedtime.
It puts a lump in my throat when I think about how our daughter brought a little joy into the life of a lonely widow. My wife and I could pat each other on the back for raising such a “good little girl,” but the glory belongs to God. The reality is that we are just two inadequate sinners trying not to mess up too much as we struggle to bring up our sinful offspring in a God-pleasing manner. It’s comforting to know that God can accomplish wonderful things in spite of us.
God used my wife to bring a culture of caring into our home. She sets an example for our daughter (and me) in the way she consistently shows love for others. Whether thoughtful little things or time-consuming big things, she is always willing to take the time when someone is in need. She routinely involves our daughter in those things. At age two our daughter was part of the regular visits to a grandfather suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. It’s true that Grandpa didn’t know her, but the other nursing home residents looked forward to having their day brightened by a little two-year-old.
Teaching our children to care for others starts in the home, but it doesn’t have to stop there. Our daughter’s first-grade class made visits to a local nursing home. Those visits were a great benefit both to the children and the residents. It’s just one more step in creating a culture of caring.
At the risk of understatement, creating a culture of caring is critical in a society that routinely discards those who are perceived as a burden. Thousands of unborn are murdered every day. The elderly and severely disabled are placed in nursing homes, and many are neglected by families and friends. Our courts grant requests for the most helpless in our midst to be left to die by the withholding of nutrition and hydration, and in Oregon*, physician-assisted suicide is a legal right.
It is a bleak picture Yet there is hope. There is hope because redeemed children of God put their faith into action. The writer of the book of James says, “I will show you my faith by what I do” (James 2:18b). Our God-given faith produces fruit. You and I, motivated by the love of our crucified and risen Savior, take our unique gifts and put them into His service. There are tremendous opportunities for serving the neediest in our society both physically and spiritually.
Start in the Home
A great place to start is in the home. Create a culture of caring. Be an example to your children and involve them in the work of caring for others. Help them to see that the most vulnerable in our midst are not burdens but blessings.
It is indeed a blessing when God brings special people into our lives. It is a privilege to be able to love and serve God by physically caring for others. It is an even greater blessing to be able to use these situations as bridges for conveying God’s love and sharing the message of salvation through Jesus.
Even the smallest gestures of love by God’s smallest children are pleasing to Him. Even the tainted gestures of love by a sinner like me are pleasing to Him. Why? Because our Heavenly Father sees the perfect works of our perfect substitute, Jesus, in our stead. The feeble efforts of your family and mine will make a difference because it is God who works in [us] to will and act according to His good purpose (Philippians 2:13). We will make a difference as we share God’s culture of caring with our children.
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. (John 13:34)
* CLR NOTE: Since the original publication of this article, California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Montana, Maine, New Jersey, Vermont, and Washington have legalized physician-assisted suicide.