This winter I tried to find different ways to make my children aware of the hungry, homeless, less fortunate, even beggars. Sometimes it is hard to know how much information about the sadness and brokenness of the world I should share with my little guys. Yet I believe that they need to learn compassion and thankfulness, and one of the best way to learn this is to help them see how hard life is for many others.
We read A Single Shard, the story of a homeless orphan in 12th century Korea. The main character spends his days scrounging for scraps of food and longingly watching the master potters in the village. Eventually he persuades one of them to take him on as an apprentice, receiving for his wages a bowl of food every day.
The Family Under the Bridge is another book I highly recommend for children. It is the story of a crusty old hobo who has his own favorite spot to live under the bridge. He has chosen his lifestyle because he likes it, but one day a desperate mother with her little children invades his space. Slowly he starts to thaw and become more kindly to the people around him. Almost against his will, he learns to care about them and does his best to help the mother keep her little family intact. It is a book with humor and grace mixed into the sad bits.
Another book we really like is Star of Light, a story of little beggars shamefully misused by their stepfather. It is a beautiful tale of how they find the love of a Heavenly Father.
I also have a photojournalist’s collection of portraits of titled Precious in His Sight. It is a powerful visual aid… What if I were the little girl selling bananas in the middle of that crush of cars at the intersection? Suppose I was the little farmer boy in Malawi who spends days and days alone, herding the family’s cows so they don’t wander off or get stolen.
A percentage of the sale of this book goes to Compassion.
And there is yet one more photo journey that I suggest for little children. It is titled Where Children Sleep. It is an expensive book, but I am glad I bought it. We have discussed why it is that some of the poorest little children with only one little car to play with and a bed of filthy blankets on the floor look just as happy in their photos as the children with everything their hearts desire. You can find a lot of the images from the book here.
So, how did this post turn into a book list? I suppose it may be because they are my main tools for instructing my children. 🙂 But aside from books, how do we do something that makes a difference? That is the real question. The boys helped me cut patches out of fabric scraps and sew them into comfort tops for the ladies at church to turn into warm blankets for somebody cold.
I hoped to find a soup kitchen that needs volunteers, but the only local thing I could come up with was a fund raiser called Empty Bowls. This is a grassroots movement to help feed the hungry. Local potters hold workshops where volunteers get to make soup bowls to sell at the supper they host. That immediately caught my attention because of my pottery making dreams. We made pinch pots, starting with a ball of clay that became the base of our soup bowl, then adding coils of clay and smoothing them out to form the sides and rim. It was a lot of fun. We decided we wanted our own bowls back, so we went to the supper and claimed them.
All the food was donated by local restaurants and businesses, the proceeds benefitting our local food pantry. It was a lot of fun, an event I hope to make an annual thing for us. Here are the girls with our bowls.
So far I don’t feel like I have accomplished much except helping my crew to notice inequity and to want to help. I need more practical ideas. 🙂