Helping Build Compassion

Sometimes at presentations about our ministry I am asked hard questions.

At a recent speaking engagement to elementary students, one child said, “Why do they smoke cigarettes when they could use that money to buy what they need?” Now, I believe this question reflects something they’ve heard from a parent or adult. However, I decided to engage the child. I agreed cigarettes are very bad for you. I agreed the street youth could put their money to better use. Then I steered them in a different direction.

First, I asked if they like to drink cokes. Hands went up all over the room. Then I asked if they think cokes are good for them. A wealth of information flowed about the ill effects of too many soft drinks: teeth, gums, bones, stomach, sugar jitters, sugar crashes. Amazing answers. I asked, “Why do you drink them?” More great answers: Because I love them. Because it’s fun to have a soda with a friend. Because my dad offered it to me and I don’t get to do many things with my dad. Because I need a pick-me-up. Because I’m bored. All true answers.

Then I asked if they could now connect the dots. Why do street youth smoke cigarettes? Can we understand it more? Can we be less judgmental and more accepting? Light bulbs went off in some! I closed with this reminder: why they do it doesn’t change the fact that cigarettes are not good for you, any more than liking sodas doesn’t change the fact that too many aren’t good for you either!

The world needs more understanding and compassion. The world needs more smiles. Maybe–just maybe–the next generation can do a better job!

What are your thoughts on building compassion in the next generation?


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