We've been rolling out a compassion program in our church for the past several weeks. As the Director of Children and Youth, I have the pleasure of introducing this concept to our kids of all ages. Starting with the K-2nd class, we acted out scenarios to play through what compassion could look like. With the 3rd-5th grade class we also acted, but I took more input from the kids in terms of what kindness and non-kindness looked and felt like.
When it came time to work with the Youth group (6th-12th graders), I had the students write a story. Not long, just a few paragraphs. I asked them to remember a situation in their past where either they wish someone had been more compassionate to them, or where they wish they had shown more compassion to another person.
I'm sure we can all think of a time that someone did something nice for us, or we acted compassionately toward another person. Those are great feelings!
But often, the scenes that stick with us, that teach us the most, are the ones tinged with regret. These memories aren't fun to think about, and can get pushed to the back of our minds.
The experiences our youth wrote about were touching and telling. These youth were able to see, with tenderness and understanding, that someone was in pain, even if they weren't sure what they could have done about it. They recognized another person reaching out to them, even if they weren't in a position to reciprocate the feeling.
It's my hope that thinking and writing about these regrets will help bring their natural compassion to the forefront. The compassion they knew should have been present has a face and a feeling. Next time they are in a situation to reach out with compassion or to accept when another is reaching out to them, it will be grasped wholeheartedly.