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Teaching Compassion

Some lessons unfold on their own

Teaching Compassion
September 2013

I have been thinking about how to teach my kids about compassion. Although we volunteer as a family for a Run Walk fundraiser each year where my kids stuff envelopes, hang posters and volunteer the day of the event, I realized that volunteering is not the same as teaching compassion.

When I was a kid, I remember watching the Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Telethon. I remember how much people cared about the issue and how many sick kids were

being helped by the show. Because of it, I was aware of how this disease touched people and also how people were helping them. Jerry Lewis evoked emotion and made me feel compassion for the children battling the disease.

This past summer a family member died in a tragic accident. It was shocking and devastating. My kids saw me and family members cry for days (not something they are used to), grieve and be fundamentally sad and heartbroken. My husband and I decided to take all three of our children to the services. Should every child attend a viewing or funeral? Of course that decision would be based on individual circumstances. For us, it was the right thing to do. That was the day my children witnessed the real meaning of compassion on a significant level.

As I entered the church I grew up attending, I witnessed countless people lined up to give their condolences. It dawned on me there that I cannot explain compassion to my kids. It is a feeling.

It is something you experience. Something you give and receive with others. There is nothing material involved or exchanged. Rather, it is a hug, crying together, listening and being there without getting anything from it. It is in fact, the ability to be bigger than yourself and your own problems in order to ease the suffering of others. My kids saw it that day; better yet they felt that emotion and were comfortable with it.

When compassion is typically most needed, there really is nothing to say or do. Instead, it is the ability to empathize, understand and comfort those hurting. Compassion – a basic human quality that for us parents can be difficult to teach. This summer my kids learned it.

Sometimes as moms, we want to shelter our children from the sad and the devastating. (I know I do.) What we often forget is that our children will typically rise to the occasion to learn the

tough lesson. This particular lesson was not planned, but from it they learned the meaning

of compassion by being around family and friends who could express it.

In the end, I was struck most of all by the fact that those who leave us continue to teach us life lessons. I am grateful for my cousin, Whit, for doing just that for my children – teaching them the significance of compassion.

In memory of Jonathan "Whit" Whitacre.

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Mary Susan Buhner is a Life Coach for Moms and author of "Mommy Magic: Tricks for Staying Sane in the Midst of Insanity." Visit her Web site at www.Mommy-Magic.com.

Tags: In This Issue, Mommy Magic, Parenting

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