This article first appeared in “Giving: Growing Joyful Stewards in Your Congregation” magazine which is published annually by the Ecumenical Stewardship Center. The full magazine (chock-full of great ideas) is available for purchase on their website.
Today’s culture can be toxic for children and other living things. If we build our values on the “put-downs” and sound bites of social media and incidences of daily violence that permeate the news, we might lose hope in what the future could hold for our children. How do we nurture a generous spirit in children when it would seem the world is about self-aggrandizement, winning, and having the most toys?
While we may think children are born as empty vessels waiting for family, teachers, and (yes) the church to fill them with love, knowledge, dreams, values, and a purpose, we know that they are already born with a capacity to know God and experience love. As caretakers of our children, it is our responsibility to nurture that which already exists, by providing an environment where their desire to be loved and part of a community is openly welcomed, acting as role models in what it means to be a generous, loving person made in the image of God.
We are born for sympathy and compassion. In a University of Oregon study, economist Bill Harbaugh and psychologist Ulrich Mayr found that charitable generosity activated the reward center of the brain, indicating that our brains are naturally made for kindness. Furthering this research are studies on compassionate meditation such as the one conducted at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which illustrated that through the repeated practice of mindful generosity, we can increase empathetic responses to others.
Continue reading Nurturing Children to Live Generously
14th Sunday after Pentecost: August 21, 2016
Luke 13:10-17 Psalm 71:1-6
In you, O Lord, have I taken refuge;
let me never be ashamed.
In your righteousness, deliver me and set me free;
incline your ear to me and save me.
“Ryan Lochte locks down spot in Olympic hall of shame.” So headlines an article in the Houston Chronicle in a report from Rio. The first lines stated, “Congratulations to Ryan Lochte for winning the final race of his Olympic career: the race for most embarrassing athlete.” The U.S. has had plenty of embarrassing athletes before: Tonya Harding and her goon squad in 1994; the American hockey players who trashed their village room in 1998. But Lochte and his three swimming buddies managed to not only embarrass our country, they humiliated the host country in the process, not to mention themselves.
As a noun, shame is a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior. As a verb, we think of its use as when we humiliate, mortify, embarrass, chasten, or “cut down to size” another person.
An early memory of feeling shame for me comes from my grandmother when I was a child – about 8 years, I guess. I don’t quite recall the full incident, but I must have been talking back to my mother in a very hurtful, hateful way in the presence of my grandmother. Later when she was alone with me she told me how disappointed she was with me and how horrible it was for me to speak to my mother in that way. She was visibly upset with what I had said. I don’t recall what I did next, but that feeling of shame and sorrow remain with me as a visual and visceral memory. I had been called out for something I had done, by someone I had loved. It was shame given with love, meant to make me notice that my actions had broken – or at least splintered – an important relationship. Continue reading The Cones of Shame