Just a few days ago when I was planning to make a "cheer-up" visit by taking some cookies to an elderly couple, I asked two of my young grandsons (ages 11 and 13) if they would like to go with me on this visit. Their reply was "Sure" without any hesitation. Their willingness was no surprise to me because from their earliest memories their parents have involved them in serving others. This often included visiting older people who might be lonely, or shut-ins because of health problems, or doing helpful tasks for others.
Almost daily we are reminded of the power of example as we observe attitudes and actions in children of all ages which reflect the behaviors of those with whom they spend time. From their earliest years we see children copying what they see in others. This frequently brings smiles as we see little ones literally trying to walk in their mommy's or daddy's shoes, attempting to mimic adult behaviors in words and actions. What a teaching tool God placed in our hands when he blessed children with this built-in desire to copy! Starting with the very young years and continuing through the growing-up years, we have limitless opportunities to teach through example many valuable attitudes and actions that children are so willing to copy. This can most fully apply to our own children but can also be useful in the lives of grandchildren and others with whom we come in contact.
In the visit I mentioned earlier, not only did the boys have another opportunity to experience the joy found in giving, but they also gained additional appreciation for some ways that older people have helped make the lives of younger people better. In this case, the husband was a World War II veteran who served overseas for three years while his wife worked in a factory that supplied needs of soldiers. I directed some of the conversation in such a way that this veteran would share some experiences that gave meaning to the cost of the freedom that we have. It was also an opportunity for these grandchildren to increase their gratitude for things done by which they now benefit.
Helping children appreciate older people and some of the wisdom that goes with age does not happen by accident! It is best taught through active participation with us, starting while children are very young, in going and doing for others, and listening to some meaningful stories that some elderly ones can share. It requires of us thought and planning and time to make these activities happen in a meaningful way. We are rewarded each time we observe, in the lives of children, good character traits that we have helped build by wisely using opportunities that God provides us.
In this article we have focused mainly on building in children appreciation, respect, and concern for older people by involving them together with us in activities to bring about this outcome. This is just one of the many good character traits that is effectively accomplished by children having good examples to copy. As adults we must show children, by our example as well as our words, how to act and interact with others. When Paul said, "I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this ..." (Acts 20:35), he was referring to the things they had seen him do (working with his hands) as well as what they had heard him say. 2660 Layman Road, Vincent, OH 45784.
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