Orthodox America

Helping Children Acquire Compassionate Hearts

by Natalia Lord

...and the King shall answer and say unto them, verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto Me. (Matt. 25:40)

Royal Martyr Grand Duchess Elizabeth was brought up by her mother Princess Alice doing good works:

"Not only did Princess Alice instill in her children a feeling for music and art, she also laid firm Christian foundations. Each Saturday, with a large bouquet of flowers in their arms, the children went to the hospital on Mauerstrasse and distributed them to patients. They talked with the ill and became friends with many of them. In this way, the children subconsciously acquired love and compassion.

Although Princess Alice always remained an Englishwoman at heart (she was a daughter of Queen Victoria), she was much loved by the people of her new country, especially for her tact and discretion. She founded a number of charitable organizations and, throughout her short life, always gave priority to the interests of her Duchy and its people. She toiled indefatigably to alleviate the difficulties her people were experiencing, distributing a major part of her husbands and her own wealth to charity. She constantly visited hospitals, orphanages and homes for the war-disabled and made a point of having her elder daughters, Victoria and Elizabeth, accompany her on her many charitable excursions. (Millar, Grand Duchess Elizabeth of Russia, p. 16)

I have tried to collect ideas on some practical ways in which to involve children in small acts of kindness towards others. It seems that these small acts of caring about others "backfire" in that the one giving tends to be the recipient. It always struck me that whenever I made an effort to reach out towards someone who I felt needed a friend at the time, I was the one who was enriched by the interaction. It was a little embarrassing and quite humbling. As with so many other things we hope to teach our children, we have to model that behavior or trait which we would like to pass on to them. Here are some activities that we can do with our children to help model caring and compassion.

There are of course, many more similar ideas that would serve the same purpose, but the above are what have come to mind.

Natalia Lord Natalia Lord is a parishioner at the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of St John the Baptist in Washington DC. She and her husband have two girls, Elisabeth and Alexandra, who have both written articles for The Orthodox Family.