What Does It Look Like to Inspire Our Children?

Sarah was putting the last artistic touches on a Christmas package. Always attentive to detail, she had adorned her gift with wrapping fit for a queen. Delicate snowflake tissue paper lined the shipping box in which she placed the foil-wrapped gift, making sure the curled ribbon wasn't crushed. Seven-year-old Joy sat licking a cinnamon candy stick as she watched Sarah finish her task.

"You must be sending that package to one of your best friends! It's so beautiful! I wish I would get a package like that in the mail from one of my friends!"

"No, Joy. Actually, I'm sending this to a girl I just recently met on one of my trips."

"Well, why are you taking so much time to make it so pretty, since you hardly even know her? I think you should send it to your best friend!"

Sarah sat down at the cluttered kitchen table to explain.

"The girl I'm sending this present to probably won't get any other presents from friends. She's had a lot of problems and has been rejected by a lot of people in her life. Her mom has been married to two different men, and she has been real sad and lonely moving from house to house. I thought I would try to brighten her life just a little bit by sending this. And I'm putting it in a pretty package because she needs to know she is loved even more than my best friends need to know it."

"I'm glad you're my sister, Sarah!" Joy said as she skipped away from the table, satisfied in her soul with the answer Sarah had given.

When we consider how to pass on the gift of inspiration to our children, we often think of taking them to church or getting them involved in a children's program or youth group, and those activities can be very positive. But even more important, I believe, is doing for them what Sarah was doing for Joy and what Jesus did for his disciples: helping them develop a heart for ministry by showing them what it means to reach out in love and compassion to others.

Too often, I think, we are tempted to view outreach mostly in terms of missionaries reaching unchurched people in faraway lands or perhaps an evangelistic crusade for thousands or an enthusiastic youth-group rally. But Jesus gave us a very different model of ministry when he took the time to reach out to people he encountered in the course of his every- day life. He happened to go by Simon Peter's home after a trip to the synagogue, and while there, he healed Peter's sick mother-in-law (Mark 1:29-31). He went to a friend's house and scandalized the Pharisees by drinking and eating with the people he met there—"tax collectors and sinners" (Luke 5:29-32). He commended a Roman soldier in front of a crowd of people for his great faith (Matthew 8:5-13). Wherever he walked, he encountered people in need, he had compassion on them, and he helped them.

Have you considered what it looks like to inspire your children through your own actions?