Family Compassion Focus – Part 2
Does your heart break when you read the news? Mine does. Are you overwhelmed by relentless suffering? I am. Should we try to ignore it, sheltering our kids from it? Or should we step into it together?
I didn’t think about global compassion and suffering much as a young parent. Life was crazy enough already. But when my five year old twins heard about the broken bones, crying babies, and smashed houses from the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, they wanted to help. It woke us up.
We tried to listen and equip them to respond. We did a little bake and craft sale with a $500 goal. Our friends, neighbors, school, church, and facebook community gave lavishly. Ultimately, we became a bridge for sending $33,000 to Haiti that year. It was completely unexpected.
Whenever people hear the $33,000 Story they ask “Why?” Why did my kids want to help? Why did we let them? Why did people respond so generously?
I think these questions and answers are deep in everyone’s souls, based in a deep soul hunger.
I have some answers. But first I must make some things clear. The outpouring of compassion wasn’t from a certain quality of parenting. It wasn’t from witty facebook posts. Or having perfect children. Or right choices or hard work.
The night before the earthquake in Haiti my kids suddenly asked my husband, Chris, deep questions about God: “what does it mean that Jesus said he could rebuild the temple in 3 days?” “why does that lamb have blood on it?” “what does it mean to be born again?”
Chris sensed something stirring. He listened. He gave simple, short answers. It’s not something we had ever directly talked about with them, but he went for it: He asked Zoë and Caleb if they would like to talk to Jesus, ask him to forgive their sins, and ask him help them to follow him every day. He wasn’t expecting any response to such big, weird, intangible questions. There was no hurry. He was just throwing it out there.
But my kids each wanted Jesus that night. They prayed. Chris told them it was a very, very special night because something amazing had just happened. We’d been quietly praying they would someday choose Jesus since before they were born. It is a life-changing and world-changing decision. The kids went to bed smiling.
The next morning we sang “Happy Birthday” to help explain how their souls were given a new start that night, like being born again. Looking at the candles in their muffins I talked about the little flame inside their hearts now that Jesus was inside, and how they could guard and grow that flame as they learned about and loved him.
The earthquake in Haiti happened later that day.
Caleb and Zoë noticed me tearing up on our five minute drive home from school when NPR reported on the quake. They asked many, many questions. That night when we prayed I added, “Lord, please show us what you’d like the Fritz Family to do to help Haiti.”
Caleb sat up and said, “I want to send LOTS of food, Mama.”
And Zoë said, “That’s a good idea, Caleb, but we need to do a program.”
I asked Zoë what a program was and she said, “Mama, you’ll go to churches on Saturdays and Sundays and talk to them about Haiti. Then they’ll want to give money to help them. Then you’ll bring it down to Haiti and they’ll get stronger and help the other people.” I quietly asked her who “the other people” were. She replied, “Haiti can help, like, Mexico, and Mexico can help Africa, and Africa can help another country. See, the whole world will be better if we help Haiti get stronger.”
I was speechless. We had never talked about anything like this ever.
I asked Zoë where she heard this great idea and she said, “Well, Mama, you just asked God to give us ideas, and this is the idea I got.” Was she telling me the idea was from God?
I really think it was. I think when my kids asked Jesus to come into their lives the night before, he actually did. They were already becoming different people – curious about others (“who is hurting, Mama?”), talking to God expecting answers (“what can we do to help?”), and coming up with big ideas out of nowhere (“let’s do a program”).
He was giving them new empathy, creativity, generosity, and compassion right away. And that grew beyond them. I think so many kids at their school scoured the junk drawer for spare change because they wanted to be a part of something good. More people spread the news and sent money because the hope was contagious. Friends and strangers got swept up in the idea that change was possible in a place as desperate as Haiti.
So what’s the answer to all those questions? The simplest way to say it is: Jesus.
Compassion took root in our family and our community because of Jesus.
Of course there are millions of people doing amazing compassionate things that don’t even think about Jesus. So many of the people that participated in our fundraisers didn’t like Jesus and thought Christians were jerks. But they were hungry to do something good. They wanted to help people. Their hearts were broken by deep suffering and were compelled to act. I think that was Jesus in them, calling them toward love.
Jesus’ deep, unchanging, relentless love for us (his compassion for us) is contagious. When we begin to grasp that love we start to copy it. And when we do, we seem to be rewarded with a heaping measure of contentment and hope.
Actively seeking to love and provide for Haiti after the earthquake changed our family. It gave us vision, identity and purpose. We still bicker, complain and have really awful days, but we also have compassion. We are growing it for each other, and for the whole world.
My family wants more of that. We intentionally pursue compassion by having a Family Compassion Focus each year. We look for new ways to love and serve people we didn’t know before.
Each year we:
- brainstorm compassion ideas
- vote for one
- research it
- select an organization to partner with
- love and serve new people with compassion experiments
- celebrate what God chose to do through our silly, messy family
- give compassion-based presents to Jesus on his birthday
We keep trying to give our children the space to hear and respond to the God that is talking to their hearts. Sometimes it’s hard to say yes and we pray harder that we won’t be an obstacle to their vision, creativity, and obedience. They have fabulous ideas:
- collecting money for Haiti instead of getting birthday presents
- making and selling cupcakesl to help orphaned and imprisoned children in Uganda
- painting and selling 120 signs to give babies clean water
- celebrating a birthday at Feed My Starving Children
- hosting a gourmet lemon:aid stand with homemade lemon soaps for clean water
- crafting cinnamon, peppermint, and paper bird ornaments for a Christmas Craft Sale (dreamed up by our 1st grader)
- running 5ks to raise money for the homeless (my son hates crafts now)
- collecting school supplies for homeless and refugee kids in our own school
On New Year’s Day our family voted for Haiti as our 2015 Compassion Focus. Within minutes of voting the ideas started pouring out:
- “I want to help people in Haiti get toilets!”
- “Are there orphans in Haiti? I want to pray for them everyday.”
- “Can we do something with chickens?”
- “Can we go to Haiti? Please?”
My husband and I already chose to work with Haiti Partners again. They have great on-ramps for compassion. Our smarty-pants daughter wants to sponsor a child’s schooling. This morning she asked for help figuring out how to raise $300 as soon as possible. We have micro-enterprise in our blood and HP is helping to grow social businesses (one involves chickens!). We are passionate about faith & justice and want to learn from HP’s church training programs.
This year’s boldest idea is from my husband. Chris recently converted to Cross Fit. He is working on a way to raise money and awareness for Haiti Partners with his new-found obsession. There are plans to create training and fundraising teams through Spartan Races. It looks ridiculously muddy and fun. In his free time he is chatting up folks at his “Box” and designing t-shirts.
Before the earthquake in 2010 our family didn’t talk about compassion. Now we chat about it every day. We can talk about world events without hopelessness. We are becoming loveable, loving World Changers.
-Aimee Fritz, Family Compassion Focus