We can learn a lot about compassion from children

By Rev. Justin FarleyNovember 18, 2013 

The faith of a child is mysterious and marvelous.

A few years ago, our family was at one of our favorite restaurants. Parents cannot leave a place in peace unless each child has a balloon.

The drive home was uneventful. We parked our van in the driveway and began packing items into the house. Then tragedy struck.

Josslyn, 3 years old, began screaming bloody murder. What happened? Was she hurt? If so, how badly?

My wife ran over to that side of the van to find Joss. She had no injuries. But she also had no balloon.

She is yelling over and over, "It flew away! And it popped!"

I walked into the house, relieved but a bit frustrated, as if I had never acted like a child who lost a balloon.

And who do I run into? There was Joss' older sister, Julia, standing at the top of the stairs. She is holding her balloon. I have seen that compassionate look in her eyes before. Plenty of times before.

"You don't have to do that, Julia."

She simply responds, "I know."

I assure her, "I am proud of you for even thinking about it. But only do this if you really want to."

"I want to."

Josslyn, still wailing, enters the house. Julia hands the balloon to her sister.

A sentimental moment for sure. But sentimental moments don't always last long while parenting. Life rarely resembles Full House reruns.

Almost on cue, Jace (my oldest boy) declares, "I want to keep my balloon."

Please hear me, I am not throwing Jace under the bus. I am throwing myself under the bus. Why? Because I can relate a lot more with how he responded than I can with his sister.

Jace didn't know any better. He was 6. And for the record, he is a fantastic brother. He just had a moment in life where he saw what he should have done and he didn't do it. He will learn from it.

What troubles me more about that night is that my children seem to teach me a whole lot more about Christ's compassion than I tend to teach them.

Julia led with empathy. She gives things away because her heart breaks. She values people over property.

The Bible reads, "Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him. 'I am willing,' he said. 'Be healed!' " (Mark 1:47 NLT).

What age are we when we stop caring? When we begin to walk by people who have lost so much more than a balloon -- their livelihood, their dignity, or even their families?

And we choose to hold on to our balloons that much tighter. We learn to make excuses instead of take action. We convince ourselves that they deserve what they get.

We tell ourselves that we have earned all we possess. Plain and simple, we want to keep our balloons.

Give me the heart of a child.

-- Justin Farley is the lead pastor at Blue Bridge Church in Pasco. Questions and comments should be directed to editor Lucy Luginbill in care of the Tri-City Herald newsroom, 333 W. Canal Drive, Kennewick, WA 99336. Or email lluginbill@tricityherald.com.

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