We recently took the boys on vacation where we cruised the Caribbean. If you've ever been on a cruise you know it can be an extravagant experience where food & entertainment are at your disposal. The boys ate lavish meals, played putt-putt while sailing the ocean, were entertained by talented acrobats & dancers, snorkeled, jumped in the ocean waves, and received royal treatment (so to speak). They had a blast...obviously.
Upon our return though I've thought to myself, "Do Grayden and Cole have any idea how fortunate they are?" Keith and I did our best during the vacation itself to remind the boys of how this isn't normal and how blessed they are to be having these experiences. Regardless of our attempts, we know they didn't get it.
Before having my kids I taught middle school in a school district where over 75% of the students were on free or reduced lunch. I loved my job and I loved the families and children I worked for (and with). Many of these families worked 2-3 jobs to make ends meet. Many of my students went home to an empty house where they were responsible for making themselves dinner and doing their homework while their parents were out working their tails off. During a social studies lesson I polled over 90 of my students and a mere 5% of them had ever ridden on an airplane. Most of them had never traveled outside of Ohio. Very few had ever seen the ocean. I helped coach a 7th grade girls basketball team and most of the girls had never played on an organized sports team before...no little leagues or lessons as a young kid.
The difference between the experiences my young children have had compared to many of the older middle school kids I taught is pretty substantial. When I think about all the extra-curricular activities my children are blessed to do like soccer, swim lessons, piano, and basketball I clearly see the difference. And after sailing on a 7 day cruise with them, it's plain as day to me. My kids have been given so much.
I can't expect my children to see their abundance of blessing on their own for up to this point this is all they've ever known. Thus, I know it's Keith and my responsibility to make our children aware of their blessings and privileges as well as compassionate and generous toward those who are less fortunate. It's also our responsibility to not give them everything they want, when they want it.
To be honest, I'm a little overwhelmed by these responsibilities. They demand purposeful conversations and a firm commitment to not spoiling my kids. Furthermore, we must be deliberate about creating opportunities for them to help and care for others.
I don't want to just get angry and flabbergasted with them for being selfish and ungrateful, especially when I hear the phrase "It's not fair." And I don't want to give in to the popular parenting strategy which involves giving kids everything they want because that will give them an edge in this world.
So I have recently begun to regularly ask the Lord how I can keep my children grounded and thankful, as well as how I can make them compassionate and generous toward others who might not have as much.
As I seek the Lord's wisdom in rearing children with grateful, contented, and compassion hearts I find guidance in His Word.
Hebrews 13:16 says,
"And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased."
Proverbs 14:31 teaches,
"He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God."
Friends, it is easy for me to forget to do good and to share. It's even easier to turn my eye from the oppressed. But God is pleased and honored when we care for those in need & when we give of ourselves and our possessions. We must lead by example.
I want to teach my children these Biblical principles. And my prayer is that as they care for those in need, they will learn to be content, as well as become full of thankfulness toward all the experiences and blessings in their own lives.
I trust that many of you have these same desires and hopes for your children. Perhaps many of you, like me, desperately need God's wisdom with these responsibilities. So will you join me and let's pray for our children.
Help me to do good and to share with others. Present opportunities for me to be kind to those in need. As I long for my kids to have contented and compassionate hearts, I know that You call me to lead by example. May my words and deeds toward others be pleasing and honoring to You.
And for my kids, Lord would You open their eyes to their own blessings and privileges. I pray they would grow up grounded and grateful for all the blessings and privileges You've bestowed upon them. Give me clarity as to how I can create opportunities for them that will teach their hearts to be content and thankful. Guide my parenting so that I don't spoil my children.
And through Your Spirit grow in them the gift of generosity. Stir in their hearts a love for all Your children and a desire to please You by doing good and sharing with others.