Teaching Children to Love Thy Neighbor

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.  Proverbs 22:6

As homeschooling parents, we work endlessly to ensure our children master the basics of reading, mathematics, and grammar. We allow caterpillars to live in jars on our counter tops and build pyramids out of sugar cubes.  We  pull out tubs of paint and piles of clay and encourage our young ones to create.

But, are we as diligent at teaching them from an early age how to care for those less fortunate than themselves? Do we lead by example, giving to those in need in our neighborhoods, our churches, our communities, and far from home?  Do we teach them to love their neighbor?  Finding opportunities for children to give of themselves can be difficult, but with a bit of time and research, you’ll find there are plenty of ways for even very young children to give and to love.  When children learn to give of themselves, they will continue to give and to love when they are grown and away from home:  they do not depart from their training, and that is certainly a lesson worth teaching!

Look for those who need help right in your neighborhood. Raking leaves, shoveling snow, and baking cookies are great ways for elementary-aged children to offer assistance to those in need.  An elderly couple, a new mom, or a single parent would likely welcome your child’s willingness to bless them with such help.

Sign up for your church’s meal program or volunteer to deliver meals for Meals on Wheels. Even young children can help to prepare a meal for someone who has been ill or has recently welcomed a new little one into their home.  Shut-ins receiving Meals on Wheels often love to see and visit with children.  Encourage your child to make a card or drawing to leave with the people to whom you deliver meals.

Donate gently used toys and clothes to a worthy cause. The Salvation Army and Goodwill are wonderful organizations, but children may get more out of donating directly to a non-profit that caters to women and children in need.  Look for shelters for abused women and children, organizations that work with teen moms, or half-way houses for women overcoming addiction and raising their children.  Preschools and churches often appreciate donations of toys and books.  Many local fire stations and police stations will take gently-used clean stuffed animals (no larger than 16 inches) to give to children involved in accidents and other traumatic situations.

Consider sponsoring a child in need. Our family sponsors four boys through World Vision.  We selected children close to our own boys in age:  one from Sri Lanka, one from Kenya, one from Honduras, and one from Chile.  This has been a wonderful opportunity for our boys to learn about another country and its people, to recognize that the needs of people around the world are real and personal, and to connect with children in far-off lands through letters and photos.

Collect loose change throughout the year. Loose change, even pennies, adds up.  Collect your pocket change, and encourage your children to contribute a portion of their allowance or birthday money to the collection.  On Christmas Day, count what you have collected and peruse a gift catalog such as World Vision’s Gift Catalog or Heifer International’s Gift Catalog to select a Christmas gift for those in need.  This year, our family saved enough spare change to purchase a pair of chicks, a pair of rabbits, and an armful of soccer balls for children in need around the world.  You might also consider participating in the Alliance for Children Everywhere‘s Change 4 Children project.  The project benefits orphans in Zambia, a nation where 1/3 of the children are orphans.  Families that choose to participate in this program will receive a beautiful handmade basket to collect their change.

Participate in Operation Christmas Child. Sponsored by Samaritan’s Purse, Operation Christmas Child is one of my favorite goodwill projects for families of young children.  Packing a shoebox with toys, toiletries, and school supplies for a child their same age is something children can understand and participate in from a very young age.  Our boys have been helping with the selection of items to put in their boxes since they were two years old.  Aside from an occasional tear over wanting to keep a fun ball or pack of playdoh, a learning experience in and of itself, this has been a wonderful project, one that we all look forward to each holiday season.

And the King shall answer and say to them, Truly I say to you, Inasmuch as you have done it to one of the least of these my brothers, you have done it to me.  Matthew 25:40

How are you teaching your children to love the Lord by loving His people?  What charitable projects has your family participated in?

Jennifer takes her responsibility of training-up her boys to be good Samaritan’s very seriously.  When she isn’t fishing change out of the sofa or helping her boys write letters to the family’s sponsored children around the world, you’ll find her blogging at Adventures in McQuill-land.


Comments

  1. says

    I totally agree. Recently South East Queensland, Australia, was hit by devastating floods. Many people lost everything. I really wanted to do something to help, but I’m not in a position to help with clean-up. Then I read about a woman who organised a group to bake cakes for the volunteers – bakedrelief.org.au – so I decided to do something like that. Last weekend I took my girls to Ipswich, one of the hardest hit areas, and gave out cakes and drinks at various locations – a sausage sizzle for people cleaning up Macdonalds & Harvey Norman at Oxley, Bundamba Primary School (where my girls used to go) where all of the downstairs classrooms were flooded and some people were there cleaning up, and the Ipswich Showgrounds where many people are still living because they can’t go back to their homes yet. The people were really appreciative and surprised that we would bother, and the girls experienced the pleasure of doing something for others. They had also shared in the baking.

  2. Jamie Hershberger says

    I have signed my daughter up with American Heritage Girls so that she will have more opportunities to serve others. (It is like Girl Scouts but the leadership has to sign a statement of Christian faith and the entire program is very Christ-focused.)

    They have an oath which the girls recite at every meeting that states: “I promise to love God, cherish my family, honor my country, and serve in my community”.

    They organize several troop-sponsored community service projects throughout the year and also award the girls for service hours they complete on their “own” time.

    It is a fabulous program for inspiring girls to serve others and love their neighbors! I encourage everyone to learn more about AHG. The website is ahgonline.org!

  3. Carol Stickney says

    Another thing you did with the boys that taught them to be thankful for all that they had and to think of others occurred with their birthdays. They had a party with games and cake but no gifts. Instead the boys chose a charity and the children coming to the party brought something for the charity…food for the food bank, stuffed animals for the ambulance squad, pet food for an animal shelter, books to be taken to Mississippi to give to a library devastated by Katrina are the ones that come to mind. I always thought the idea was a wonderful one.

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