I watched the most beautiful display of compassion play out before me in the form of a 5-year old boy. In the particular classroom I went into today, there is a little boy who has been raised with a very permissive, entitled parenting style. He takes tremendous fits over, well, nothing and feels that he should always be first and most.
At the end of each lesson that I teach, I invite 4-5 children to come up, one at a time to work on the assertiveness or social skill that I’m teaching. It’s wildly popular to be called up and most of the children would give their baby teeth to be chosen. After the fourth participant chose “Zion” to come up as the final participant, you could begin to see fallout in Mr. Entitlement’s voice and actions. An all-out fit began to take place, taking both of his teachers’ strength and attention to quiet him down. Zion, a thoughtful, quieter boy, looked at Mr. E with deep concern; went to him first before coming up to me, and said, “I’ll pick you” in the tenderest of voices. I gently explained to Zion that he was the last child to come up but I loved how kind he was to Mr. Entitlement.
Zion looked painfully sad and hung his head. The other children all watched him quietly, holding their collective breaths. I asked if he was going to be able to talk and interact with my puppet. He sadly, said “no.” You could see from his expression and every nuance of his body that his heart was paining him. I told him that it was okay and that he could pick someone else to take his place. He quietly walked over to Mr. Entitlement and said, “I pick you.”
A simple story, really. But not really. For you see, compassion and empathy can’t easily be taught in a classroom. Either a child has a natural gifting as part of their personality, like Zion, or it has been modelled first by parents, and molded by life experience. Mr. Entitlement, by all appearances, didn’t deserve to get a turn. It was a little galling to see his egocentric ways rewarded. But I paid little attention to him, as I was too overcome by the little boy, Zion, in front of me, who now had a sweet, peaceful smile on his face. For you see, he cared so much about his fellow classmate that he was willing to lay down his coveted turn for him. And in giving up his treasure, he found a deeply satisfing peace and happiness. Rare in a 5 year old. Sometimes rare in an adult. It raises a question for our souls: It’s easy to lay down our coveted “turn” for someone who’s kind and deserving. But what about laying down our “turn” for Mr. Entitlement? Ooh, now that one pains our souls. Zion gets it, though. For there is no greater love, than a man who will lay down his “turn” for his friends (Paraphrase mine; John 15:13).
Greater love has no man than this; that a man lay down his life for his friends.