In a world where gaming, selfie-perfecting and Instagram following consumes our kids, as parents, we need to be proactive in helping them become outward faced.
None of us are born this way. Until Jesus comes in and rescues us from ourselves we will be hell bent on serving ourselves. And that’s the beauty of Jesus. He radically transforms. Whether or not your child has a relationship with Jesus at this point there are some things we can do to help them become more aware of people around them. And the nursing home is a great place to start.
Trust me, we don’t have this figured out by any means. Just ask me about the time one of our kiddos asked an elderly lady, “Are you going to die soon?” Oh dear. But we have learned a few things and maybe they’ll help you as you seek for ways to help your kids become more outward faced.
A great place to start is your local nursing home. You really can just show up and start visiting people. Going around 11:00am seems to be a good time because most of the residents are up but are not eating lunch quite yet. And just a simple knock on the door is fine – poke your head in and just say something like, “You don’t know us but we came by for a visit if you’re up to it.” Most everyone is so welcoming of it. A few things to remember upon your nursing home visits with kids:
- Pray before you go. Ask God to give ya’ll a heart to love the people you come in contact with on that visit. It might mean listening to a long story. Or telling a story to a very lonely depressed soul, or going to the store to get something they need. Being wide open to what God has in mind – not what we have planned – will be well worth it even if it seems uncomfortable at the time.
- Embrace the uncomfortable. And there will be uncomfortable times. Like when you child says, “Ewwww, what’s that smell?!” upon walking in a room. You can’t prepare them for everything and so just take these moments as teachable moments for the ride home. And don’t let the uncomfortable moments keep you from going back. Like the time Ms. Linda gave me the card back that I made for her. She didn’t want it. My kids eyes were bugged eyed in shock and disbelief. Ha! It was pretty funny actually. Satan would love to throw anything our way to make us give up on being ministers of mercy and compassion.
- Speak Truth. There is nothing more powerful than giving someone the Truth of God’s word. Speaking, praying or giving a card of scripture is one of the greatest gifts we could give to someone. We have found that most people love a homemade card. I buy colored 4×6 blank index cards at Michaels or Hobby Lobby when they go 50% off and throw some stickers on there and print off a verse of scripture and glue on the card. Sometimes I’ll handwrite it. And I have a set of verses that I have found great comfort in during times of difficulty or just favorite verses that I go to regularly. These are the various verses I use. And remember we prayed before the visit so I feel certain the right person will get the right card with the Truth of God’s word they need to hear that day. This is how our God works.
- Conversation Helps. This is hard for kids. Early on our kids didn’t do much talking. They would give hugs and say Hi but now that they’re older we’re trying to help them move more into initiating conversation. So we talk about what questions they might could ask a person they’re visiting. Or what things they could talk about that would interest the other person. We certainly don’t have this figured out yet. On our last visit I asked this lady pictured above what her advice to Mitchell and Sophie would be. And she gave some excellent advice about minding your parents and finishing school. I want my kids to know there’s a wealth of wisdom in the older generation and we need them. And yeah, they might get some screwy advice if you keep asking that question to everyone you visit in the nursing home but what a great platform to talk about these things with your kids later.
Here’s a few more stories of our visits to the nursing home – some just plain funny and some really sad. Don’t spend too much time on our stories – go build your own and come back and tell me how it went. I would love to hear how it goes.