Compassion is Alive and Well in the 4th Grade

Last month, in honor of the launch of #1000Speak, I posted a special piece about compassion called Teaching Our Girls About Friendship. Writing on a shared theme and posting on the same day as hundreds of other writers worldwide was a mighty, moving event. Reading so many amazing stories and perspectives inspired me, swelled my heart and put a perma-grin on my face for days. The whole experience got me thinking:

If writing and reading about compassion can have this kind of impact on me, an adult, what can it do for our kids?

I decided to take my curiosity into my daughter’s fourth grade classroom. She attends a Jewish Day School where the value of chesed, or kindness, is one of many intertwined throughout the curriculum. Each class takes on a yearlong service project ranging from caring for animals and respecting the elderly to teaching literacy, caring for the earth and helping people with special needs.

I have no doubt my girls are learning about kindness, both at home and at school, and what it means to do good in the world, but there’s a difference between kindness and compassion. Most of us are born with empathy, the ability to feel for someone else in a sad or scary situation or someone who’s had an awful experience. Our hearts drop; we feel sadness ourselves. But to have compassion means taking our emotions one step further into the realm of action.

What would a group of 9- and 10-year-olds know about compassion?

I started out asking them what they thought the definition of “compassion” was.

IMG_5534  I showed them photographs that modeled compassion.

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We talked about what it means to show kindness to strangers, to find understanding for people who might bully or tease and even what it means to have compassion for ourselves. After our group brainstorming and discussion, I asked them to express what compassion means to them – and that’s when the magic happened.

Art happened.

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Collaboration, play acting and story telling happened.

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“Once I was walking and my little sister had just gotten a new jacket. There was a little girl, younger than my sister, with her mother and maybe her grandfather. They were begging and instead of throwing the old jacket away, we gave it to the little girl.”

 

Singing happened

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“Compassion, compassion, help someone get better.

 

“Compassion, compassion, have that feeling in your heart to make it okay.”

 

 

Intention happened:

“To be a more compassionate person, I will give food to a food bank, help the poor and make sure no one and nothing will get abused.”                                                                                    

Kids know more than we think they know and they know it because their big hearts take in everything they see and hear from us. So much of what the kids said about compassion had to do with us, the grown ups, the teachers, the parents:

“One time, when we were walking to our car from a restaurant, my dad gave our left over food to a homeless person. It was steak. My dad carries around a lot of steak.”

Everything we do, each word we speak, every action we take – or don’t take – even our tone of voice and our facial expressions make an impression on the children in our lives. That day, it was the kids who’d made an impression on me. I was so proud of my daughter and her classmates for their ability to see past differences, recognize need and think about how they can act to make the world a more compassionate place.

This is our future. It’s in good hands.

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This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post. This week’s prompt is “My proudest moment was…”

Hosted by Kristi from findingninee.com and cohosts Tarana Khan from sandinmytoes.tk and Kerri Ames of undiagnosedbutokay.com.

This post is also part of the 1000 Voices for Compassion movement where hundreds of writers post about compassion on the 20th of each month. 

23 thoughts on “Compassion is Alive and Well in the 4th Grade

  1. I love love love that you took this to the next level and spoke about compassion to your daughter’s class at school. I have no doubt that you’re raising compassionate and kind children and just wow. Definitely a moment to be proud of. I got a little teary just thinking about how huge this really is. I’m so glad to have read this today, Lisa! Thank you.

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    1. Thanks so much Kristi. I was a little nervous that I’d botch it up — not be able to explain compassion vs. kindness clearly — but they really got it. Gave me a chance to see the kids in a different, more mature way than I typically do. My daughter’s known many of these kids since she was 2, so they’re like family to me and I guess I don’t always realize that they really are growing up.

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    1. It was really great to work with the kids, especially at that age. They’re right on the edge of truly individualizing their thoughts and perspectives and honing their ability to express themselves. Plus, they’re really open to these kinds of “special” projects.

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  2. Awesome!!! I can see so well why you are proud of your daughter and her class. They’ve clearly learned the lesson about compassion that you were sharing, and are willing to integrate into their lives and our future as well. Thanks for sharing!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well I could kiss you Lizzi for making this all happen in the first place! Your inspiration is my inspiration. Thanks for infusing me with motivation. The really cool thing is how acting out of compassion makes you FEEL good. It was clear the kids caught the bug. xx

      Liked by 1 person

      1. They look so HAPPY, and the photos – ohhhh look at what they DID! I am DANCING on the inside with sheer delight at this gorgeous outpouring of compassion, and how it must surely prove a memorable lesson for all of them, and might just make SUCH a difference to their lives, and the lives of the people they encounter…this is a pebble thrown into the BEST kind of ripply pond. BRAVO!

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  3. It was great to read such an inspiring post today! Many of them were very inspiring … all of them, in fact! But this one didn’t come with so much pain behind all the love! Our children are pretty amazing like that! Their kind of love needs to go viral. Thanks for sharing this! If you write about children often, I’d love for you to consider contributing to the Bossy Kids Platform. Live love! ♥

    Liked by 1 person

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