The sirens start and I look around in a mild panic. I know that sirens are supposed to be a warning to get people out of the way, but for some reason I can never tell which direction they come from and that makes me panic more. Thankfully I'm sitting at a traffic light, so I can't go anywhere anyway. The sound gets louder and then I see it: a firetruck with lights flashing coming around the corner and flying past us. I am taking a moment to calm down, when I hear it from the back seat.
"Mommy?" a little voice asks.
And in that moment I know what's coming next and the tears start to sting my nose.
"Yes, honey." I respond.
"Can we pray?" he asks.
I don't remember when I started it, but I do know it's been at least two years since I initiated this dialogue. I casually mentioned a long time ago that when we hear sirens we should pray for the responders and the people in need of help. Now I don't have to remind him. He mentions it all on his own each time.
I've taken to asking him to lead the prayer. He's a little shy about that because he doesn't always know what to say, but he's learning. And his heart is obviously in the right spot because he knows that when people are in need that we can pray for them.
Frances had a rough start to middle school this year. She had finally gotten into a groove with a good set of kids in 4th grade and then she had to move up to a new school with more kids. She got teased a lot at the beginning of the year. Mostly stupid reasons, like the fact that her best friends are all boys. She came home from school in tears a few times and it just broke my heart. It makes me tear up again just thinking about the broken-hearted look on my sweet girl's face.
We talked a lot about strategies for coping with the bullying. We talked about why kids bully. We talked about building her up and strengthening her character. We prayed a lot too. She found strength in those prayers especially. She started coming home happier; with a smile on her face. She was making new friends and discarding the opinions of those who had nothing kind to say.
And then we sat down to talk about it again and she told me, "Mommy, I'm glad this happened to me."
And I was very confused (as I often am as a mother).
"I don't understand, honey. Why are you glad about this?"
"Well, I'm glad it happened so that I know not to be that way to other people. I also think it's good that I can help other kids who are being bullied, because I know what it's like. I can tell them some things to do."
And I know that her heart is obviously in the right spot because she's taken a negative and used it to build herself and others up.
There's a bang and then a yell from the other room. I'm used to these sounds. As a mother, my weekends are full of bangs and yells. Some of them are (mostly) harmless and some of them mean someone has gotten hurt. I've trained myself to take a deep breath before getting up to investigate such noises. I don't want to turn into a Jack-in-the-Box!
Tiny feet run past me into the kitchen.
"What's going on?" I ask.
"Ice pack!" He pants; out of breath. And he runs back out of the kitchen towards the bedroom.
Ice packs and band-aids are used quite liberally in my house. I should have bought stock in them many years ago for as quickly as we go through them. They solve a myriad of issues, even when adults wouldn't think that they are called for.
After things have apparently been taken care of, he comes out again. "Bubby fell off the bed and bumped his head on his dresser," he tells me.
"Is he okay?" I ask.
"He just needed an ice pack."
There's no real damage done. There are enough toys and blankets on the floor to cushion most falls and there don't appear to be any tears, scrapes, or bruises. And I know that the heart of even my littlest one is in the right spot, because when someone gets hurt you reach out to help them the best way you know how.
The world can be a scary place right now. There are natural and man-made disasters occurring every day. And the news coverage has gotten such that we know about every horrible thing that happens in every corner of the world almost the instant that it happens. There are more people in the world, connected in more ways than we ever though possible and yet many people feel more alone than ever before.
Lots of people have thrown out lots of suggestions for what the world really needs, but in my heart it all boils down to this: we have forgotten that we belong to each other. We need more compassion in the world. We need a feeling of connection that goes beyond Facebook friends, Instagram followers and blog subscribers.
The prefix com- in the word compassion means "with," "together," or "in association." and the word passion suggests a strong feeling. Compassion is a feeling of wanting to help others, especially those who are sick, sad, alone, or otherwise in need. If we could put aside whatever little differences we have and focus on the things that we have in common what kind of a difference could we make?
My children frequently drive me crazy, but they also teach me things every day. They show compassion for others: others they don't know, others who have hurt them, and even others they have hurt themselves. I won't lie and tell you that they never fight and are always kind to everyone, but I will tell you that at the end of the day when I hear my kids pray for those who have hurt them, pray for each other's minor boo boos, and pray for children in need all around the world, I have real hope for the world. I have real hope that the next generation will more compassionate that the one before it. And I have hope that these kids will always know that they belong to each other.
Do you know that today, February 20th is the United Nations Day of Social Justice? There are over 1,000 bloggers around the world joining together today to write about compassion. Maybe we can fill the newsfeeds with some hope and light and make a change. How can you show compassion today?
Read more compassion posts here:
Or write your own and join in on the movement. Visit the 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion Facebook page. Sign up to add your blog post to the effort. Ask to join the Facebook group. Use the hashtag #1000Speak.