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Practical Service

Right Now Love

Elizabeth forgot who we were every time we visited — something my daughter Sami often struggled to understand after each trip to the nursing home.

"Mom," she said once. "Why do we go to see her when she forgets us as soon as we leave? Isn't it like we weren't even there?"

"Well," I said, "it depends on how you look at it. She enjoys us when we're there, right?"

"Right."

"She smiles big and tells you stories. In fact, every time she sees you, her eyes light up, even though she thinks she's meeting you for the first time." I struggled for a minute, trying to think of a way to explain it to a 6-year-old. I leaned over and rubbed her back. She curved it like a kitty cat, nearly purring with delight. "You like when I rub your back, right? Even if you couldn't remember it afterward, would you still want me to do it?"

"I wouldn't care if I forgot halfway through. I love when you rub my back."

"Well, that's why we love on Ms. Elizabeth. She likes it when we're there. And that's enough."

Sami thought for a minute. Then her face lit up. "Oh, I get it! It's right-now love! Like when you eat ice cream or watch a really funny cartoon. It may not last very long, but you love it while you have it." She smiled. "And that's enough."

She got it.

And that's enough.

Teaching children to love selflessly and with no expectation of reciprocation, cultivates others-centered adults and people who truly demonstrate Christ's love and sacrifice as Paul explains in Philippians 2.

So how can you as a parent practically instill Philippians 2 principles in your child?

Here are some ideas from other parents:

Teach them to serve to serve, not to serve for praise:

Our next-door neighbor Debbie asked, "Which of you has been bringing in our trash can?"

"Not me," I said.

I saw her husband, Frank, smile at our daughter. "You've been doing it, haven't you?"

Katelyn nodded sheepishly. I knew she retrieved our can from the curb when she got off the school bus but never imagined she'd done the same for our neighbors.

Later, tucking her in bed, I said, "That's really sweet that you're bringing the Jeldys' can from the curb."

"I remembered you doing it for that single mom when we were walking the dog," she said. "Plus, I've heard all the stories of how you and Dad started doing secret service things when you were in college."

I left her darkened room with a warm glow, determined to continue modeling secret acts of kindness.

— by Cyndi Lamb Curry

Encourage your child in selfless projects:

When my 9-year-old son Andrew came home from school excited about the Thanksgiving food drive, I suggested, "Why don't you make a flyer asking the neighbors to help? You can tell them when you'll be by to collect, and maybe they can help you give to more people."

Andrew went from house to house, explaining the project and leaving a flyer as a reminder. Four days later, he set out with his red wagon to collect and came back loaded with food. From this, he learned how to let others in on serving and how to multiply his efforts.

— by Laura Groves

Make it a family thing:

During the holidays, my husband and I wanted our kids to know that Christmas was about giving. We purchased chips and salsa, packaged them in decorative bags and added cards that read, "This is a gift for your family to enjoy, from another family who loves you very much." Then, we chose four families who we thought could use a little demonstration of God's love. Our family then gave them the gifts anonymously.

— by Marcy Lytle

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"Right Now Love" first appeared in the January, 2008 issue of Discovery Years. Copyright © 2008, Elsa Kok Colopy. All rights reserved.
"Teach them to serve to serve, not to serve for praise first" appeared in the May/June, 2007 issue of Tween Ages. Copyright © 2007, Cindi Lamb Curry. All rights reserved.
"Encourage your child in selfless projects" first appeared in the November, 2008 issue of Tween Ages. Copyright © 2008, Laura Groves. All rights reserved.
"Make it a family thing" first appeared in the November, 2008 issue of Tween Ages. Copyright © 2008, Marcy Lytle. All rights reserved.