There was is an article circulating among the social media about a man in Sweden who took his children to Israel, Syria, and the West Bank to teach them just how truly terrible real war is and how fortunate they were to have the lives that they did. There was, as you can imaging, an outcry that he put his children in danger like this just to teach them a lesson.
While his strategy is extreme, there are other less intense and simpler ways that a parent can teach their children about the plight of others.
When my kids were younger, 5 – 10 years old, I used to take them with me when I’d deliver fruit baskets to widows. This was done between the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. The widows were the spouses of deceased brothers of my Masonic lodge.
We would load up the minivan with large, beautifully wrapped fruit baskets and head out on a crisp, cool autumn morning to do the deliveries. When we would stop at a widow’s home, I’d have my son and daughter take turns ringing the doorbell and handing the basked to the elderly woman who answered the door.
The reason I brought my kids with me was twofold. First, the lovely ladies were thrilled to see young children at their door bearing gifts. The smiles on their faces were heartwarming on the chilly fall days. Seeing two young, smiling, and cute-as-can-be children at their door obviously made their day, often more so than the fruit baskets we left with them. If my children were lucky, the lady in question would have homemade cookies that she would proudly hand out.
The second reason I took my kids on these errands of giving was because I wanted them to learn the gift of giving, but also how much less others had then they themselves did. I knew that most of the widows lived alone, often on just Social Security or pensions that their husbands had left them. Some barely had enough food to make it through to the next month’s check, so bringing fruit gave then a treat that they usually couldn’t afford on their own.
My kids would ask me why these women were living alone, why didn’t they have their own fruit in the house (something that was always within arm’s reach in our kitchen at home). I would explain that many of these women lived alone because their husbands had died and their children, if they had any, had all moved out long ago to live their own lives as adults.
This must have made an impression on my children as I noticed that they would make extra efforts to interact with their grandparents and aunts and uncles, sometimes giving them little gifts like flowers they found outside, or offering to share their fruit roll ups with them. They would tell everyone who listened about their trips to deliver fruit baskets and how sad they were that many of those women didn’t have family around them all the time like they did.
Of course, this doesn’t come close to comparing to visiting a warzone, but the ultimate lesson is basically the same; that there are a lot of people in the world who have existences that are much worse than their own and that they need to be aware of this and be grateful for their own privileged lives. In the case of my own children, it seemed to work.
Featured image by Kelly Short6