summer family kindness

‘I was hungry and you fed me, thirsty and you gave me a drink; I was a stranger and you received me in your homes, naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you took care of me, in prison and you visited me.’ Matthew 25


“Mom,” my son asked me one day as we were stopped at a light. I looked in the rear view mirror and I saw that he was looking at the homeless man who stood at the island in the middle of the road with a sign that read, “Homeless veteran. Please help. God bless.”

My son continued, “How can people just drive by another human being who needs help and not do anything?”

I had seen the man, too. His face and hands were weathered and dirty. His clothes were ragged and filthy. His shoes were falling apart. I was close enough to him that I could see his eyes. They were the kind of dull that comes from being malnourished and much suffering. His shoulders slumped over around his heart. He walked with a limp.

We’ve all walked by homeless people before.  We’ve turned the other way when someone asks us for money.  We may be afraid, “What if he tries to get in the car?”  We may be skeptical, “Is he really homeless?  What’s he going to do with the money?”  We may be judgmental, “Why can’t he just pick himself up and make a better life?”

Fear, skepticism, and judgment can keep us driving or walking by another human being who is suffering and doing something.

But we’ve also felt our hearts quiver when we stop to notice those who we may usually just ignore or walk by.  My son’s sensitive soul was calling me to SEE again.  I have worked in nonprofits my whole life. I have lived and worked in developing countries. I know that the response to suffering can be complicated.  I also know the power of taking a “grassroots approach.” I know the power of letting our hearts be moved with compassion and acting on an individual basis from that compassion.

I’ve never regretted being kind.
I’ve never regretted offering someone a meal, a hand, or a warm blanket.

But I have regretted walking by.
I have regretted not doing anything.
I have regretted not following the quiver of my heart.

So that’s what I told my son that day, “Check in with that ‘quivering of the heart.’ That’s compassion. That’s an innate reminder that we are all connected. And do what that inner sense of integrity and compassion prompts you to do.”

A few days later, while we were in the car, my son asked, “Mom, can we stop by Costco and pick up some water bottles and granola bars to hand out to ‘our guy’?” And that’s what we did. We’ve been handing them out ever since.

There are simple ways for us to teach our children about how to regard one another. We often walk by “everyday people.” When we SEE another person we’d usually walk by or ignore, we acknowledge that they too want to have enough to eat and drink. They too want to be safe and belong. They too want to be loved.

In a world where we often have our heads down in our devices, in a world with an epidemic of loneliness, in a world where children spend less time face-to-face with real people, these simple acts of compassion build up our children’s sense of empathy. And empathy reminds us that our wellbeing is connected. We remember that every single person matters. And we counter the forces in our world that create separation, wars, and hate.

Summer Family Kindness to Create a More Compassionate World

Summer is a great time for families to practice kindness in our communities. Here are three simple and doable suggestions for summer kindness as a family:

1. Have to take your car in to get repaired? Have landscaping that needs to be done at your house? Working in the heat of the auto repair bay or working outside in the summer months can be grueling. A few years ago, we needed to take our car into the shop. It was July and just so darn hot. The kiddos and I were hot just going from the car to the office of the repair shop. I looked over at the workers in the repair bay and I thought, “Oh my gosh, that has to be so hot!” The kiddos and I walked over to the grocery store and picked up a few boxes of Popsicles for the workers. When we walked into the bay, they looked over at us and their eyes widened and said, “Thank you so much!” Recently, we had people working on our deck. It was so hot outside already. We offered the workers water and respite from the hot sun. You can do these simple gestures of kindness!

2. When you are out and about at the park, take a few minutes and pick up trash. Teach your children to care for their environment and our earth.

3. Give out water bottles to homeless people. It’s hot out there. Like my son suggested, have water bottles in the car ready to hand out. Everyone could use a bottle of water.

May we all “listen to the quivering of our hearts” and act from that place. This is how instill a sense of empathy in our children. This is how we invest NOW in raising a generation of compassionate leaders in the future.


*2019 Update:

*If you are a parent, a professional, or a person who influences the life of a child, check out Regarding Our Children, my online, on-demand course.  This is all about setting our children up to thrive.  I bring in my clinical, trauma-informed expertise working with clients; my decades of mindfulness; and my experience being “in the trenches” as a mom to share with you researched-backed ways to instill a sense of resilience in your child, empathy, compassion, a growth mindset, and how to support them to be “leaders of their own lives.”


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