"Until man extends the circle of compassion to all living things.
Man will not himself know peace."
There are many lessons we are called upon as parents and adults to empart to our children. Perhaps one of the greatest and most far reaching of these is compassion.
Many of us have watched the world around us disintergrate into a mass of sorrow and violence. Today our children are bombarded with images and messages that seem to say it is easier to resort to hatred and violence to solve a problem than to take that step toward compassion and understanding of our fellow man. So how do we as parents and educators teach our children to stop, think, put yourself in the other persons shoes before striking out in anger? One of the best ways is through our animal friends.
The key to compassion is respect. Respecting yourself, your family, the environment and all it's living creatures. It's learning that you are only a part of something much greater and that we are all connected in some elemental way. Animals, in their natural habitat, do not destroy that habitat. They do not kill indiscrimantly but for food only. When balance is maintained, all animals in a particular habitat, even predators and prey live together, harmoniously.
BoofMan sure does go for the lovin'!
Wolves are probably the best example that we humans can relate to. A wolf is not a lone creature. Wolves are family oriented and spend most of their lives within the circle of their family. They are very social creatures, just like us, who crave interaction with others. Wolves also take care of each other within this family unit. Young are cared for by all members of the pack. The elderly are also respected members within it and hold a special place of honor. This is just one example. There are many in the animal world. We have all seen documentaries that feature acts of compassion between animals. The ape who is the aunt taking over the care of an orphan. Dogs and cats that accept young, not their own, to nurse and nurture. Indeed this sometimes crosses species lines. For young children, observing these interactions either in person or through the media is a good beginning toward teaching compassion. It provides a subtle but powerful message.
Another way is to get involved with a humane organization. Many organizations have multi-level activities available. Most have some type of education program and may even have 'ambassador animals' who are taken into classrooms to help teach compassion and good animal care. A trip to the local shelter may not be the best way to start for a young child, but many 8-12 year olds can handle that very well. The key is to start young and to reinforce the lesson of compassion.
Nap time at the daycare.
It is also very important to talk to your kids about being compassionate. They have their own ideas on how they can do things. You might be surprised by what they come up with! By far, though, the best way to teach children about compassion is by being an example. If you are compassionate toward animals your children will be too. So, the next time you see that dog running down the road, or that kitten in the parking lot, don't turn away. You be the one to offer a compassionate hand.
Graphics created by Girls In Boots