A study released recently says more and more children are growing up with an underdeveloped sense of empathy. In this world of social media and immediate gratification, they are frequently the subject of photos taken every day for the purposes of sharing with the world. It’s easy for them to get the sense that they are the center of the universe. What the study called “narcissistic.” Hand them a cell phone and they follow the same learning curve with their own endless parade of selfies.
My own children are old enough that they missed most of the social media frenzy until they were in their teens. Still, I wonder, what did I teach them about caring for others during that season of being a mother, wife, full time public relations professional, and fiction writer. I shared in Sunday school class recently that I was so pleased when my daughter Erin told me how she is putting a fruit and a vegetable on Brooklyn and Carson’s plates at each meal. She wants them to like strawberries, green beans, peas, and apples—just like I did. I taught her that, I say with pleasure. Just as I taught Erin and Nicholas to brush their teeth and take baths and the importance of reading. Not to throw trash on the ground. To never, lie, cheat, or steal.
But, I wondered, did I teach them the really important stuff. Like how to pray. Did I model Christian behavior for them? Did they see a Jesus-lover when they looked at me? I took them to church and Sunday school every Sunday. I taught them to say grace before eating. God is great, God is good, let us thank Him for this food. By his hand we are fed, thank you Lord for our daily bread. But did they look at me and see an example that would carry through in their adult lives and with their own children?
God knows (and that’s not just an expression) what we do. He knows we plant seeds. With each fruit and vegetable placed lovingly on their plates, children learn about a mother’s love. With each story before bedtime, they learn of how much a mother wants her children to experience a world beyond their own doors. With each bedtime ritual of bath, tooth brushing and bed, they learn how much a mother wants her children to grow up healthy and strong.
And with those trips to feed the homeless under the highway overpass, the food bank drives, and the volunteer service at the Thanksgiving luncheon for thousands of San Antonio’s less fortunate, they learn of a mother’s concern for their sense of humanity. For their sense of compassion. For their sense of brotherly love.
God knows I was not a perfect parent during that frenetic season. He knows that about you as well. He will take the seeds planted then and help them sprout now as our children raise their children. He’ll take our less than perfect efforts and turn them into life lessons for the next generation. He will make them more like Him. Those of us who are now grandparents, simply must make sure we do our part in this season for this next, new generation.
Fewer selfies and more hugs, perhaps?