Sometimes, after playing too roughly, my two-year-old, Harrison, will run up with exaggerated panic reporting an invisible “boo boo” on his finger, knee, or foot. He watches me intently as I examine the “injury.” After I assure him that he can expect a 100% recovery, I ask, “Do you feel better now?” To this he typically replies by sweetly smiling, nodding, and announcing, “All better!” Sometimes he requests a kiss, a hug, or even a colorful character bandage. But always (and most days, only) he wants my acknowledgement that the pain was real and valid to someone other than himself. Then he runs off to play.
Today, as the kids and I discuss the quality of compassion in our SKOOL lesson, this quirky toddler tendency comes to mind. The truth is that none of us ever outgrow the need to feel seen and understood, particularly in our pain. And the instinct to help make it “all better” in others is part of what makes us human.
Exercising compassion is so beneficial that those who give it can’t help but reap benefits of their own. Research shows that meditating on compassion actually yields outstanding personal benefits to the meditator that include: increased well-being, more gray matter in the brain, anti-aging effects to telomeres and greater social intelligence, just to name a few.
But our global connectivity brings so much of the world’s pain and suffering front and center to our awareness that it can feel overwhelming to lean in to it all…far easier just to numb out. As this happens, we go from being cooperative parts of a whole to self-absorbed independents looking out for ourselves alone. This emotional malignancy can be devastating when it develops in mass.
Raising children who are in tune with their fellow man is an uphill challenge in a world of self-indulgence, distraction and general desensitization to the emotions of others. However, in this Momma’s humble opinion, it’s a worthy and even necessary lesson to instill in their young, still impressionable minds.
Compassion is defined as “a deep awareness and concern for the suffering and misfortune of others, combined with the desire to alleviate the situation.” But compassion is not enough on its own. It must be brought to life through action.
Yes, there is a lot of suffering out there, but as the kids and I discussed, all any of us are called to do is operate within the sphere of our direct influence. While some have more influence than others, we all have the ability to lift another up and operate from a space of compassion.
Whether it’s sponsoring an underprivileged child with their allowance money, visiting someone lonely in an assisted living facility or fostering a shelter animal, what one heartfelt thing can you and your child commit to doing together that will bring more compassion into the world TODAY?
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